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Financing plans sought for Memorial Hall project

The county commission wants to see how it could finance a possible restoration of Memorial Hall and has asked the CAO to come up with scenarios for ways that project could be paid for.

In a meeting Tuesday Commissioners Bill Pratt and Les Boggs voiced their support for restoring the structure built as a memorial to Civil War soldiers. Commissioner Freddie Hayes did not attend the meeting.

Also at the meeting were Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO, Paul Woods of the Ironton Port Authority, Bill Dickens, Ironton Economic Development director, Ashland, Ky.-based architect Shawn Walker and Carl Howard of Mi-De-Con, a commercial construction firm.

“I think it is important to try to preserve our past,” Pratt said. “But I will require a source of funding. Lawrence County is not able to borrow money or take from the general fund.”

Boggs also said he was for the project but for what he called practical reasons.

“If you look at the black and white cost and if we can get it through private entity and historical tax credits, I think it is a doable project,” Boggs said. “I think we can do it in the long run.”

Right now the building is owned by the city of Ironton but in January the county commissioners said they were considering preserving the 19th Century structure to turn it into the headquarters for the county’s emergency services.

Last week Howard said the building could be restored for a cost of almost $3.3 million. Mi-De-Con’s estimate was the third that had been requested to determine if the structure could be saved.

In 2007 a study done by E.L. Robinson Engineering for the city of Ironton put the restoration cost at $7 million with demolition at a half-million dollars. Those figures included asbestos and lead abatement. Mi-De-Con’s estimate did not include abatement.

Another evaluation was recently made by Shawn Walker & Associates who also put restoration at approximately $3 million.

Howard’s plan is to gut the building, place a steel structure inside the walls, then attach that to the exterior. The plan would also remove the wooden staircase and rebuild it to resemble the original.

Commissioners had considering paying for the restoration through grants or historical tax credits. The county has applied for a Homeland Security grant for $3 million that could go to the restoration.

“Within 30 to 60 days we will know whether we can get that,” Boggs said. “If we can get the $3 million, we don’t need the historical tax credits.”

Kline suggested having a private entity such as a port authority or economic development organization seek the funding. Then the county would enter into a lease-purchase agreement with that agency.

“(Such a private group) would not want a return on the investment,” Kline said.

He also said getting historical tax credits could cost from $250,000 to $300,000.

“Because you have to go through a syndication to find investors who will buy the tax credits” Kline said.

With a $3 million project that would be 10 percent of the project, he said.

The commissioners asked Kline to come up a variety of financing plans for a meeting Tuesday, June 12 at 1:30 p.m. at commission chambers.

“It is important people understand this is part of a plan,” Boggs said. “We need to look at the future. This is not a fly-by-night decision. It is part of a bigger plan for EMS, 911 and EMA.”