Historic preservation projects latest victim of budget crunch
September 23, 2010
The 23 historic preservation projects awarded funding from the Nevada Commission on Cultural Affairs earlier this year are the latest casualties of the state’s budget crisis.
Historic Preservation Officer Ron James said the grants totaling $3 million were pulled back after the announcement that the state has no capacity to issue new bonds this coming budget cycle.
Projects at least temporarily canceled because of the bonding situation include $170,000 to do repairs on the brick structure of the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City and $100,000 to finish assessing restoration needs on Building 1 at the Stewart complex at the southern border of Carson City.
Bruce Robertson, the president of the Brewery Arts Center board of directors, said the news was disappointing, but was hopeful that the restoration project would continue.
“It’s kind of an indication of the economy that we live in today,” he said.
Another casualty is the $120,000 restoration of the historic Storey County Courthouse’s facade. Also gone is $155,000 to replace windows and repair the collapsing front porch of the St. Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City and $200,000 to repair the boathouse foundation and install fire sprinklers at Thunderbird Lodge, the historic George Whittell estate near San Harbor.
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The state has issued about $3 million in bonds to fund historic preservation projects every year since 1993. The projects preserve, repair and convert historic buildings around the state into community centers, museums and other public facilities.
The projects were selected for this year’s awards in March but the treasurer’s office delayed selling the bonds while figuring out whether the state had the capacity to do so.
Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said last week that a working group of experts from several state agencies has concluded that, with property tax revenue expected to fall almost 19 percent next year and 3 percent more the year after that, there won’t be any ability to issue new bonds. He told the Public Works Board there probably won’t be capacity for any new bonds until 2019.
“There’s no revenue to support the proposed projects,” said James. “The bonds awarded in March evaporated.”
He said he hopes the program, which has awarded more than $40 million for restoration projects since its creation in 1993, can eventually be revived.
“We’ve saved a lot of buildings,” he said “It would be a shame not to have a program like this.”
Beyond the historic preservation grants, the lack of bonding capacity is forcing the Public Works Board to cut back the proposed projects for the coming biennium to just those determined to be most critical. That means life/safety projects and problems that would force closure of a building or result in major damage if not dealt with this coming biennium such as leaking roofs.