By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Historic Town Clock Church is set to receive a new steeple.
On Thursday, the New Albany City Council voted 8-0 in favor of releasing the previously appropriated $75,000 in funds for the ongoing church restoration project.
In order for the funds to be released, the council stipulated in January that Friends of the Town Clock Church had to match the city’s contribution.
The organization has met that challenge, and then some. More than $98,000 in private funds have been raised, and on Tuesday the four restored clock faces of the church were replaced.
The city’s funds will be earmarked to replicate and replace the circa-1852 church steeple, which was viewed as an important symbol when the structure served as a link in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.
“Trust me, we will be good stewards of your money,” said Alice Miles, president of the Friends of the Town Clock Church.
The building is now home to Second Baptist Church, but Miles said the project isn’t just about helping a religious institution.
“Once these buildings are gone, that’s part of our history of our community” that’s lost, she said.
Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti was absent from Thursday’s meeting. When the money was appropriated in February, Councilmen Greg Phipps and Scott Blair voted against the measure.
Blair said at the time he had reservations about whether matching funds could be raised to complete the initial phases of the project.
Phipps cited his belief in separation of church and state matters as his reason for voting against the appropriation.
But “once an appropriation has been made, it needs to be released,” Phipps said Thursday before voting in favor of the resolution.
The entire project, including exterior improvements to the building, has been estimated to cost about $400,000, and Friends of the Town Clock Church is still seeking donations for the effort.
COFFEY QUESTIONS FIRE MUSEUM MEETING
Councilwoman Shirley Baird informed the council Thursday she recently met with David Duggins, director of economic development and redevelopment for the city, about the city’s potential financial involvement in upgrading the downtown Farmers Market and purchasing a building for the Vintage Fire Museum and Education Center.
The fire museum is located in the former Coyle Auto building off Spring Street, but the property is being sold and museum officials are attempting to find a new location, preferably in New Albany.
Baird said she has discussed the project with Curt Peters, president of the museum’s board of directors, and added she may bring a funding resolution up for a vote to aid the organization.
But Councilman Dan Coffey questioned why museum officials would discuss funding from the council when they have also requested aid from the New Albany Redevelopment Commission.
Peters appeared before the commission in June, and Coffey said Thursday the organization requested $140,000 in funding from the body.
That amount wasn’t discussed publicly during the commission meeting, though Coffey said at the time the city should consider pitching in $100,000 to keep the museum in New Albany.
Coffey said Thursday that he wouldn’t support providing funding from the commission and the council for the fire museum.
Such a request would basically be asking two municipal organizations to give public funds to one project, he continued.
“I’m not comfortable with that,” Coffey said.
But Duggins countered that his meeting with Baird was “just a brainstorming session.”
He added that fire museum officials haven’t specified a funding-request amount from the council.
Baird said her discussions with Peters have been so she could understand more about the project and what will be needed financially to keep the museum in New Albany.
She encouraged other council members to meet with Duggins and seek additional information about the museum.
Peters wasn’t present during the meeting, and no one spoke on behalf of the fire museum.
Blair said whatever path is taken, the city needs specific financial projections and plans from the museum to ensure it’s a feasible effort.
“Financially, it’s an expensive project,” he said.