Deb Hadachek – Belleville Telescope Editor
One of two television programs I make a point to watch each week is Fixer Upper, a series on Home and Garden Television. The program follows Waco TX renovators Chip and Joanna Gaines who remodel “the worst house in the best neighborhood”.
What caught my attention to Fixer Upper initially was an episode filmed in West TX, which isn’t a lot larger than Belleville. My family stopped in West for dinner once because billboards advertised it as the Kolache Capitol of Texas (and the kolaches of Republic County are far, far better.) Not long after our visit a fertilizer plant exploded in West, which made national news.
Unlike most HGTV shows, Fixer Upper tackles projects on a reasonable budget (keeping in mind the housing market in Texas is still above that in Republic County.) Before Fixer Upper, Chip Gaines, a contractor, had flipped some 200 homes in Waco, starting his first project when he was in college. Joanna Gaines ran a small repurposed furniture business which she closed, then reopened. Now the couple is remodeling an old grain elevator into their retail space.
An article in the Dallas Morning News in November talked about the other jobs created in Waco because of the Gaines: construction jobs, retail jobs, furniture builders and sign makers, as well as restaurants and coffee shops and other retail outlets.
Several random conversations the last week made me wonder if a mini Fixer Upper movement isn’t possible in Republic County:
•At the annual Republic County Economic Development meeting, board members said several businesses have told them privately they would like to expand: but they need a workforce, and that workforce needs housing. Is this an economic opportunity to advertise for new, young contractors into our communities to flip houses? Will people who own properties respond and make them available to improve?
•Belleville City Manager Neal Lewis lamented to county commissioners that many of the dilapidated houses the city destroys each year still have good bones—but the lack of good roofs have left them vulnerable to moisture, mold and rot. Perhaps we need a new program that identifies vacant houses as risk and gets a roof on them before they need to be removed.
While it’s fun to dream about beautifully restored historic homes with highend finishes, right now Republic County would benefit from modest dwellings that are clean, safe starter homes with adequate roofs, HVAC and plumbing for working middle income singles and families on a budget.