New Ro-Na roof gets go-ahead

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

IRONTON — Downtown’s historic Ro-Na Theatre will soon have a roof to protect it from the elements that have bombarded her interior for nearly three decades.

Ironton City Council’s Finance Committee recommended two ordinances Tuesday night that allows the city to fund a pair of bids to replace both the roof and the metal decking of the 60-year-old theatre.

The ordinances will be brought before council for a full vote on Thursday, Oct. 8.

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In total, the city will have to fund around $129,000 of the nearly $187,100 price tag to install the decking and roofing for the Ro-Na.

The remaining $58,000 will be offset by contributions and solid pledges the theatre’s Steering committee has raised for the project.

The city of Ironton currently owns the theater and pledged earlier this year to pick up the remaining portion of the roofing and decking tab that could not be covered through fundraising. The city will pay for its share of the project through its debt retirement sinking fund which currently has a little more than $171,000 in its coffers.

The 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 funded from any type of citizen tax dollars.

Mayor Rich Blankenship said only one bid was received to install the decking while five came in on the roof installation. Ironton-based Mi-De-Con Construction, Inc. came in with a bid of $88,500 to install the decking while Proctorville-based Fairfax, Inc. snagged the winning bid for the roofing at $98,600.

Construction is anticipated to start this fall.

Ironton Economic Development Director Bill Dickens told the committee he was confident the Ro-Na could get “an additional five to six thousand dollars in additional pledges” once progress could be seen.

Dickens, who also serves on the steering committee, has been the catalyst in a fundraising initiative to tap into many of the out-of-town businesses and contractors who have received work in the city to support the continued redevelopment of the Ro-Na and downtown.

That initiative has shown some recent successes.

Dickens said Tuesday that $20,000 had been pledged to the Ro-Na by the Empowerment Zone while an additional $5,000 was pledged by the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation.

Earlier this year, the Ironton Port Authority donated $25,000 towards the Ro-Na as part of the Honeywell property sale to Mi-De-Con Construction, Inc. The remaining $8,000 has come from private, individual and business donations.

The steering committee has printed a double-sided fundraising brochure that can be mailed to the committee with donations made with cash or check.

The city’s Website will soon have the brochure available for download. Donations to the Ro-Na are tax deductible.

Once the decking and roof are installed, the task of restoring the Ro-Na can move on to its second phase.

Phase two of the restoration project is rebuilding the faade and interior of the 60-year-old theater while phase three focuses on rehabilitating the intricate historic details of the Ro-Na.

Dickens said the city would attempt to secure community development block grants for the second phase.

Opened in 1949, the once-glorious Ro-Na is part of a generation of vaudeville houses and movie palaces throughout the state that have fallen on hard times in recent decades.

Since being used as an auto parts store, the roof has decayed and rain has damaged items that were left in the building.

Engineers have said that, other than the roof, the building is in good structural condition.

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.

The long term goal is for the city to donate the Ro-Na to a to-be-created, not-for-profit, 501c3 charitable group when restoration is complete.

The thought process is that the city would have a better chance than a not-for-profit, to secure downtown development grants that could ease the financial burden in repairing the Ro-Na.