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Ro-Na gets financial boost

The Ro-Na Theatre took another small step towards earning her grandeur back Thursday following a $5,000 donation towards the committee responsible for its much-needed rehabilitation.

The donation, which comes days before the newly-developed Ro-Na Steering Committee holds its first planning meeting, was provided by Ironton-based Industrial Sanitation, Inc. DBA “Johnny on the Spot.”

The company is co-owned and co-founded by brothers Robert and David Slagel who together also own Modular Security Systems, Inc. and Dropbox Inc. All three companies are based in Ironton.

“It is a pleasure to see the city doing the best that it can, within its budget constraints, to improve the image of some of the outdated buildings in town,” Robert said.

“The Ro-Na Theater was once an entertainment hotspot in our community and can be again a place where our citizens gather for cultural entertainment.”

Robert Slagel presently sits on the Board of Directors for the Lawrence County Ohio Port Authority and is also Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Port Authority for the City of Ironton.

Slagel’s donation follows the successful “white elephant” sale in August that saw all proceeds donated to the Ro-Na restoration effort.

Labeled as Ohio’s “finest-theatre” when it opened in 1949, the Ro-Na was the crown jewel of downtown Ironton.

The theater and its interior murals of historic scenes of Tri-State history closed in the 1970s. The building, which most recently housed an auto-parts store, has been vacant since the mid-1990s.

In December 2007 following years of interest, Ironton City Council passed legislation to take ownership of the Ro-Na theater at the bequest of former owners Beverly Nance, Carol Jean Destocki and Rosemary Mitchell in the hopes that it be used for commercial development or a performing arts center for Ohio University Southern

The deed to the Ro-Na was transferred to the city in February 2008. Besides the theater, three storefronts that bookend the theatre were also part of the package.

Since being used as an auto parts store, the roof had decayed and rain had damaged metal shelves, old paper records, auto parts, appliances and other items that were left in the building. A majority of the ceiling tiles had collapsed.

In July, Ironton City Council initiated a volunteer effort in cleaning and removing trash and waste from the building.

Two months later, the Tri-State Building and Construction Trades Council, donated time and equipment in clearing additional debris from the theatre.

Currently, the theatre is awaiting asbestos removal before it can redesign and reconstruct the roof that is need of major repairs. Engineers have said that besides the roof, the 60-year-old building is in good structural condition.

The Ro-Na Steering Committee holds its inaugural meeting at 3 p.m. today at the Ironton City Center.