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Originally published: 2013-02-27 10:02:43
Last modified: 2013-02-27 10:02:43

Cultural Resources Board discusses budget priorities

by Anna Oakes

Boone's Cultural Resources Advisory Board met Monday to discuss funding priorities in advance of the Boone Town Council's annual budget planning retreat.

The priorities include maintenance and improvements at the Jones House and Rivers property as well as cultural resources operations, including $30,000 for programming (which could be refunded through sponsorships and other revenues), $15,000 for staffing on Saturdays and Sundays and $10,000 for special events.

Board members acknowledged the maintenance needs at the town-owned Horn in the West facility but said it is difficult to budget for improvements without knowing the status of the Southern Appalachian Historical Association's lease agreement with the town. However, town staff will address any public safety needs that arise, cultural resources director Pilar Fotta noted.

SAHA leases the park from the town for the production of the summer outdoor drama "Horn in the West" and for the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum. The current lease expires Dec. 31, 2013.

Town staff members have advised that $50,000 in roof, HVAC and electrical repairs is needed at the recently acquired Rivers Park rock house to avoid additional deterioration of the structure.

The house is located on Clay House Drive off of Rivers Street near downtown Boone. It was donated to the town in 1998, but a deed restriction precluded the use of the property until recently. The town is exploring the home's eligibility for historic designation.

But town staff estimate that an additional $200,000 will need to be spent to restore the house for public use. Fotta said that if the Boone Town Council considers the $50,000 budget allocation for immediate needs next fiscal year, council members should be made aware that an additional $200,000 will be needed in future budget years.

Cultural Resources Board member Julia Rechenbach-Moomaw said she would rather see the use of $200,000 in funding for improvements at a current facility like Horn in the West than the Rivers Park house, where a use for the facility has not yet been determined.

But board member Neva Specht said spending $50,000 for emergency improvements would at least give the town an option to use the facility in the future.

Board members also agreed to recommend $1,000 in funding for improvements to a trail at the Rivers Park property.