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City debates benefit of armory updates

About 30 people gathered at the City Building, 8 E. Washington St., yesterday to discuss potential renovation plans to the armory on Carpenter Street despite the lack of city funds to renovate the building.

The city would have to pay at least $1.47 million to bring the armory up to code in today’s economy — a cost calculated in a 2003 evaluation for the Athens County Historical Society, City Planner Paul Logue said.

Ron Luce, executive director of the historical society, said that funding the potential project could be problematic.

“(The historical society also does not) have the ability to come up with those funds,” Luce said.

Because both the city and the historical society do not have the funds to update the building, he said officials should focus on preserving it.

“Every time we talk about it, the building deteriorates further,” he said. “This is a historic building. It should not be lost to indecision.”

Although Mayor Paul Wiehl said he is open to ideas on what the building should become, he also offered a practical perspective.

“Just remember, I also have to run the budget of this city,” he said.

In 1997, city officials purchased the building from The National Guard for $1.2 million with the intention of creating a second Municipal Court but a lack of funds has prevented them from using the building for anything other than housing old records.

Bob Winters, chair of the Athens Municipal Arts Commission, voiced an opinion on what the building should be used for that had not been discussed previously.

A professional, non-profit organization could manage and operate the facility through a lease, he said. It should be self-sustainable and generate its own operating funds, he added.

“The facility … must not become an additional drain on city resources or demand ongoing support from taxpayers,” he said.

Winters added that this project would be a good opportunity for the city and Ohio University to work cooperatively.

“This is a place where Ohio University and Athens could really work together,” he said.


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