City permitted to fund Ro-Na roof

Published 10:06 am Friday, April 10, 2009

IRONTON — The city was given the green light to pay for the reconstruction of the dilapidated Ro-Na Theatre roof after receiving a legal opinion that monies from a specific city fund could be used for construction.

The opinion, rendered by the Ironton-based law firm of Anderson & Anderson, said the city could allocate cash from its Debt Retirement Sinking Fund to pay for roof repairs on the 60-year-old historic building.

The city sought the opinion following a March 26 discussion as to whether they should step in sooner than later to shore the Ro-Na roof instead of waiting for the estimated $140,000 in donations needed for the project. To date, only $30,000 has been raised.

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Concerned about the legality of using monies from a fund geared towards paying off city debt and bonds, several officials asked for the opinion based on if the Ro-Na – which the city now owns – would be considered enough of an asset to qualify.

In its opinion, Anderson & Anderson wrote that the Ro-Na is considered a “long term capital asset” of the city and thus can fall under the funding umbrella the Debt Retirement Sinking Fund allows.

A sinking fund is an account the city can use to make improvements to specific assets not covered in other budgets. The fund acquires money through the sale of city assets — mostly property.

A sinking fund is not allocated through any type of citizen tax dollars.

Finance Director Kristen Martin told council Thursday that the fund currently has $165,000.

At the beginning of 2009 the fund had $303,000 but was tapped into for emergency funding towards Memorial Hall.

Last week the city published invitations for official bids for the Ro-Na roof.

Within the bid, the city listed the possible cost at $140,000. Mayor Rich Blankenship told council Thursday that “several companies have contacted the city on the project.”

Deadline for bids is April 23.

City Council would have to pass an ordinance to allocate the monies from the Sinking Fund towards the project. Council next meets on April 23.

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.

The deed to the Ro-Na was transferred to the city in February 2008. Besides the theater, three storefronts that bookend the theater 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.

Currently, the theater 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.