A $5,000 loan from Jefferson County helped Historic Eleutherian College Inc. reform its board and return itself to good financial standing.

Eleutherian College is a National Landmark in Jefferson County and was the first college in the country to admit students regardless of sex or race.

Larry DeBuhr, president of Historic Eleutherian College Inc., presented an update and outlined past struggles at the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday.

The update is of interest to the commissioners because the county granted a loan to the college for renovations. The loan had a 100 percent forgiveness addendum if the college showed it used the money for repairs.

The college kept its end of the deal. DeBuhr said the loan was the college's saving grace, ultimately paving the way for Eleutherian to elect new board members, develop an operating budget and again open its doors to host events.

"Without it, the organization would have just folded and who knows what would have happened to the college at that point," he said.

Two years ago, DeBuhr said the board and college faced an uncertain future.

By the end of 2011, the board had just one member and $3,000 in the bank. That same year, the college did not host a single visitor or event.

"The end of 2011 looked pretty bleak for the organization and I think for one of Jefferson County's most important national landmarks," he told the commissioners.  

At the beginning of 2012, the college elected a temporary board and then a permanent 16-member board in July. From there, the board developed the Friends of Eleutherian, which quickly grew to more than 50 members and now has more than 90.

The newly elected board of directors also resumed hosting educational and cultural events.

In 2012, the college hosted one event which drew about 400 visitors. Last year, it hosted six events which drew almost 1,000 visitors. This year, the college has seven events planned.  

In addition to reintroducing events, the board also developed a surplus operating budget. This year, the board has a 9-month operating budget surplus and expects to extend that to a one-year operating surplus next year, DeBuhr said.

"Today we're in a much stronger position than I think anywhere in the past five years," he said.

As the college's financial health improves, the board's next step is to complete the interior restoration of the first floor, auditorium, entry hall, vestibule balcony and stairs.  

"(Those project) will allow for a more attractive and more versatile and safer venue for events," he said.

The commissioners each commended DeBuhr and the board for their persistence and dedication for the college. Commissioner President Mark Cash called the change "a remarkable turnaround."

In other business:

• The commissioners agreed to a contract with Tyler Technologies for cyclical reassessment at a rate of $150,000 every year for the next four years. The service is mandated by the state and will include property-to-property assessments and a trending report.

Under the mandate, the reassessment of the first 25 percent of parcels within each property class must be complete by July 1. According to the state, the basic premise of a cyclical reassessment plan is to spread the reassessment activities, including the inspection and updating of all parcels and parcel characteristics, in an assessment jurisdiction.

County Assessor Tina Gleeson said the project has been budgeted for this year.

• The commissioners were advised by the Jefferson County Board of Elections to move Hanover's 1-1 Precinct from town hall to the Hanover Community Building. Because of recent renovations to transform the town hall's first floor into the Hanover Police Department office, the polling site must be placed at a new location because of space and handicap accessibility concerns. The commissioners took the request under advisement to discuss the change with the Hanover Town Council.

County Clerk Karen Mannix said when the commissioners approve a location, state statute mandates that the location must stay the same for the primary and General Election.

• The commissioners agreed to allow North Vernon engineering firm FPBH Inc. to move forward with a project to identify collector roadways in the county. Collector roads connect two major highways or roadways. When stimulus money is available through the state, counties can apply for funding to repair collector roads.

The county will start by accessing Dawson Smith, which joins U.S. 421 and State Road 7, and North Rector Road and North Thompson Road, which connect State Road 250 with State Road 256.

The agreement is not to exceed $10,000.

• Cash said construction crews are about to set a water main line for the new extension office being built at the county fairgrounds. Along with the utilities, Cash said crews need to install additional flooring and a sidewalk to complete the work.