The City of Jefferson is eligible for a $600,000 matching grant to renovate the town’s historic Roosevelt Theater but still needs the green light from the city council to apply for the funds.
City manager Priscilla Murphy addressed the Jefferson City Council about the grant — available through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) — at its April 12 meet. Murphy said she needs permission to begin grant application process. If the city pursues the grant, the council must approve a budget adjustment to allocate matching funds for that grant.
It was noted that the $1.2 million total between the grant funds and matching funds wouldn’t cover all renovation costs according to plans for the building, but Jefferson Main Street director Beth Laughinghouse said cost-cutting measures could be enacted to make the project more affordable. Fundraising could also cover a portion of the renovation cost.
Construction must start within 18 months of applying for the grant and completed within 24 months of the application.
“Anytime you can do a project for 50 cents on the dollar, it needs to get our attention,” mayor Jon Howell said.
The ARC charges a $30,000 fee to help apply for the grant and manage it. That cost, however, is covered through the grant, if awarded.
Laughinghouse said the likelihood of the city being awarded the grant is “very good.” Construction-ready plans are already available for this project.
“If we apply for the grant and receive the grant, the next step is to go out to bid,” Laughinghouse said.
If the city applies for and receives the grant, the plan is to restore the building, which was built in the 1920s, to a 109-seat movie theater.
Laughinghouse said tentative usage plans for the theater include dedicating two weekends out of the month to first-run movies and perhaps another month to classic movies. The city could also generate revenue from the facility by renting it out.
Councilman Mark Mobley voiced his support for the project, noting its potential impact on Jefferson’s downtown.
“There’s nothing better for a city than having a downtown where people come on a consistent basis,” Mobley said. “To me, this would help us move people downtown, through our downtown.”
In other business, the council:
•heard an annexation and medium density residential zoning request for 0.57 acres on Brockton Rd. to allow for a single-family dwelling.
•heard a variance request to increase the square footage allowed for a cottage industry from 1,500 to 4,079 square feet for 1.04 acres on Washington St. for a furniture store with a portable sawmill.
•reviewed a resolution to accept 0.383 acres south of South Public Square from the Jefferson Downtown Development Authority. If approved, the city would take over a portion of a parking lot located on the tract. Councilman Malcom Gramley said another option is to assume control of portion of the parking lot and negotiate with adjoining property owners for the rest of the lot and a street running north of the lot. Another option is for the DDA to deed its portion over the adjoining property owners and let them operate and maintain the parking lot. The council could also opt to take no action on the matter. Councilman Clint Roberts said the council should consider the best option to move forward with potential parking and amphitheater projects. DDA chairman Les Crane said that the property is contagious to other DDA property “which the city will want to have for their amphitheater if they go along with that project.”
•reviewed a resolution to add items to the city’s planning and development fee schedule, specifically fees related to review of water and sewer plans. .
•heard from Murphy that a “kickoff meeting”for the design of the Parks Creek Reservoir was recently held. The reservoir dam is under design now, while the condemnation is in-process for land needed for the project. Murphy also said that a I-85 waste water treatment pre-bid meeting was held April 6. Five firms were present.
•heard from Murphy that she needs guidance from the council regarding use of a former gas station building on Lee St. the city purchased. Councilman Cody Cain said the space could be used for a parking lot or sold. “If we’re not going to use it for parking, I’d love to see us get paid,” he said. If rental requests are made, Howell said the city must not get pigeon-holed into a long term lease. A citizen, during public comment, suggested it be used as Main Street Jefferson’s office.
•heard from Joe Savage of the roads and grounds department that all old equipment has been removed from the Gordon St. playground to make room for new equipment. The new playground is slated for installation during the second week of May. Savage said work on the playground at City Park will begin next week. The hope is that both parks will be ready by early June.
•heard during public comment that Martin St. continues to be used as a cut-through, adding traffic and speeders to the road. A petition has been started to request speed enforcement measures. Mobley said speed tables could be used to help remedy the problem. Councilman Clint Roberts also said he supported speed enforcement measures on the street.
•heard from Mobley said McDonald’s “has been an incredible partner” in helping remedy trash problems on an access road near I-85 running behind the restaurant. According to Mobley, McDonald’s is not interested in selling the land along the road but is open to perhaps providing an easement to the city to help remedy the problem. “I wanted to request that staff begin to work on how we could allow them to retain ownership and yet us have enforceability,” Mobley said.
•heard from Cain that he wants to seek conceptual drawings for improvements to the city’s existing pool on Memorial Dr.
•discussed a looking into a $10,000 conceptual master plan addressing a potential amphitheater and future plans for old gas station owned by the city.
•heard from Mobley that the Jack Keen Celebration of Life is planned for April 25 at 2 p.m. at The Arena at Jefferson High School. Keen was a longtime coach and math teacher at Jefferson High School.