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City seeking $2 million from state for Ro-Na

It won’t be your typical holiday card. But city and county leaders hope it will bring a special Christmas gift back to Ironton.

The Ironton city administration wants to hand-deliver a letter to Gov. Ted. Strickland and area representatives asking that $2 million be allocated in Ohio’s budget legislation for the restoration of the historic Ro-Na Theatre project.

“This is what we need to do next,” Mayor Rich Blankenship said about requesting help from Strickland.

For the past couple of years the city has focused on restoring the Ro-Na to the elaborate movie house it was when it opened in 1949. Once among a number of movie palaces across the state, the Ro-Na went on hard times after it closed as a house showing first and second-run films.

Since then it has housed a variety of businesses including an auto parts store. Damage to the theater focuses primarily on its roof that had to be replaced.

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

So far the city’s part in the project is expected to be around $129,000 of the $187,200 price tag for the decking and roofing of the Ro-Na. The remaining $58,200 will be offset by contributions and fund-raising proceeds. The long-term goal is for the city to donate the Ro-Na to a to-be-created, not-for-profit, 501c3 charitable organization when restoration is complete.

The work the city has initiated is intended to demonstrate to the state its willingness to shoulder responsibility for the restoration.

“We want to show we are not asking for a handout,” Blankenship said.

The mayor has asked for representatives from the Lawrence Economic Development Corp., local government officials and the county commission to sign the letter and include any comments of support for the project that is expected to stimulate the economy long-term.

“We think (the restoration) is going to bring more people downtown,” Blankenship said.