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Commissioners agree to $25K for Eleutherian restoration
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Saturday, August 09, 2014 5:00 AM
Historic Eleutherian College is asking Jefferson County officials to contribute toward a long-desired restoration project that would renovate parts of the building to its original state and make the venue more attractive to visitors.
The Board of Commissioners on Friday agreed to award a $25,000 grant to the college from the county gaming fund. A portion of the gaming fund, which draws revenue from Belterra Casino and does not use tax dollars, is designated for historic preservation purposes.
The funding request is contingent on approval from the County Council.
Eleutherian College, a National Historic Landmark built in the 1850s, is significant for its role in abolitionist activities, the Underground Railroad and the early education of African-Americans. It is owned and operated by Historic Eleutherian College Inc., and is currently used for cultural and educational events.
The board's goal is to renovate the first-floor and balcony to bring in even more visitors and events. There has been no structural work completed on the property for the past 20 years.
The restoration project - which board members estimate will cost about $85,000 - will involve re-installing the original floor, woodwork, doors, cabinets and other trim that were removed from the building during the earlier work and milling new flooring and trim where needed.
Additionally, the plaster on the walls and ceilings will be replaced or repaired as needed and the interior spaces painted the original colors.
Earlier this year, the Jeffris Family Foundation of Wisconsin awarded the college $28,000 - enough to cover about one-third of the restoration. The contribution is considered a challenge grant and requires Historic Eleutherian College to raise the additional amount by June 30, 2016. The college can only use current donations to match the grant and not reserve funds.
"This is quite an honor. They only issue two or three of these grants a years," Larry DeBuhr, vice president of the board, told the commissioners.
He added that board members already have donated more than $15,000 to add to the foundation's award. With a contribution from Jefferson County, DeBuhr said he felt confident the board could make up the remaining difference through other potential donors.
"A grant from Jefferson County would put the icing on the cake," he said.
In other business:
The Commissioners announced that longtime Jefferson County Board of Health member Dr. Ralph Pratt has resigned. Pratt served on the seven-member board for 46 years. The open position must be filled by another physician and approved by the commissioners.
County resident Jerry Glunt addressed the commissioners about a dangerous intersection at Deputy Pike and Rogers Road. Glunt, who lives near the intersection, said he sees two to three accidents at the intersection every month. The most recent accident involved a motorcycle.
Glunt said there is rock wall that blocks motorists from seeing crossing traffic.
The county will move the trash drop-off location from the site of the former Chelsea General Store to Chelsea Park. The next trash day in Chelsea is Monday. Only residents with a county trash card can drop off items at the sites.
The commissioners announced that the county auction, which included surplus items from the offices and the highway garage, raised $13,614.27.
Deputy Auditor Steve O'Rear reported that Auditor Celeste Reed has been out of the state because a family emergency. O'Rear said Reed could return as soon as next week.
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