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Time is running out for Ghent City Council to use a $200,000 grant received seven years ago for restoration of the Ghent Christian Church.
While the grant was received in 2002, $40,000 of the money has been spent on the project so far, and to date they haven’t nailed a nail yet, Mayor William Mumphrey said in a public meeting Wednesday, April 1.
Local officials, Ghent residents and members of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet met to try to determine what to do with the building and the grant. No options presented included finishing the renovation project.
The original grant was awarded to turn the old church into offices, a welcome center and a museum, according to a document outlining the project that has been a fixture in the meeting room of the Ghent City Building for years.
“Why wasn’t anything done on this when the money was allocated,” Ghent Commissioner Lisa Barr asked. No one had that answer and almost all members of the commission have changed since the grant was awarded.
Transportation cabinet federal programs manager ShaneTucker explained the problem is the city is trying to do a 2002 project with 2009 money.
There is not enough money in the fund to get the building to a usable conclusion, Tucker said. Those taking part in the meeting agreed there probably never was enough money allocated for the project from the start.
The city has used $40,201.08 of the $200,000 mostly for architectural fees, lead paint sampling, and appraiser and lawyer fees.
Lead paint and asbestos were found in the building, but were not factored into the original grant. Estimates show the cost alone could increase the cost of the project by up to $34,000, according to a memo received by the city from Lose and Associates, the restoration architect firm hired for the project.
Tucker presented the city with three options including:
• Pay back the $40,000 and walk away from the project.
• Use the $160,000 remaining and get as much work done as possible and then apply for more funding to finish the project.
• Pay back the funding and select a new project, such as sidewalks and apply for a new grant.
Tucker explained a sidewalk replacement would be an approvable project, but it would have to begin with a new grant application with plans drawn up and put out for a bid, just like any new project.
Tucker reminded the city that the original grant was to get the building to a point where it could be used as a welcome center, and the funding remaining is not enough to get the building to that point.
Because the project involves a historic building, the work must be completed by state approved restoration contractors, Michael Jones, historic preservation coordinator for the Transportation Cabinet said.
Jones said he understands the frustration officials have with no progress on the project, but because the money is from the federal government, all their rules, regulations and guidelines must be met in the renovation.
The money on the original grant came from the Federal Highway Administration and is administered through the Transportation Cabinet.
“The money is not there [to finish the project],” Mumphrey said. “I don’t want to put the city any further in harm’s way.” Mumphrey believes it will take at least another $400,000 to finish the project.
Carroll County District Three Magistrate Mark Bates questioned Tucker as to whether the city was out of compliance on the grant at this point and Tucker assured him they were not.
“The feds haven’t asked us anything about this yet,” Tucker said.
“If the $40,000 was returned what would happen to this property,” local resident Ken Massey asked.
No one present had an answer to the question.
“I’m afraid the building is going to fall in,” Commis-sioner David Hendren said.
No decision was made at the hearing concerning what to do. However, all agreed the mayor and the three commissioners will need to make a decision in the near future.