The Press Newspaper
Opera house submits grant proposal for elevator
Pemberville Opera House programming director Carol Bailey is on a mission.
Bailey has been working to raise $330,000 for an elevator to help the disabled and elderly reach the upper floor of the Pemberville Town Hall. She says that as the opera house lovers age, support grows for an elevator.
“As far as the elevator goes at the opera house, nothing has really gone anywhere with it since it was restored,” Bailey said. “I’ve been doing these (Live! in the House) shows now for the past six years, and I’ve been watching people having a harder and harder time getting up the stairs.”
The gem of the historic town hall is its theatre, which is located on the second floor. During the height of the Oil Boom in 1891, construction began on the building with its own opera house on the second floor, originally completed at a cost under $6,000.
Bailey recently finished submitting a grant proposal to the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency which biennially requests funds from the state legislature.
“I submitted my request for $220,000, which is two-thirds, and I did that because I believe, number one, we can raise the $110,000, and number two, I believe things like this are much more appreciated if they know (funds can be matched).”
The Ohio Arts Council celebrated its 45th anniversary in 2010 amidst serious challenges, including significant reductions in both budget and staff levels. Despite these reductions, the agency still awarded more than $10 million in grants to artists, arts organizations and schools, and provided support for more than 35 million arts experiences for Ohioans, which is enough to keep Bailey hopeful.
Bailey’s request cleared two hurdles, but just before Christmas, she was told by State Rep. Tim Brown’s office that she needed letters of support.
Bailey emailed about 70 residents on her opera house list, business owners representing the Pemberville Independent Merchants Association, and individuals involved with the opera house’s summer children’s theater. She needed the support letters early the next morning.
“Mayor (Gordon) Bowman has been critical in informing both Tim Brown and (State Sen.) Randy Gardner and being my ‘official’ from Pemberville,” Bailey wrote. “He has helped me all along the way. And (Pemberville area resident and The Ability Center of Toledo grant writer) Dan Wilkins has been on board as well. Now it is your turn.”
She was happy with the response, but warns residents that the money hasn’t been awarded yet.
“I’m cautious. I don’t want to get people too excited,” Bailey said. “I think when we get closer to when it will be debated on the house floor, we might do an intensive contact and lobbying effort, but right now I’ve got about 25 emails and letters. I have people responding and all we can do now is wait.”
She expects the funding to come up for vote in the state legislature in February or early March.
“All of the renderings are wonderful,” Todd Sheets, owner of Beeker’s General Store, told The Press. “The most expensive rendering does show that we would be able to add restrooms as part of that elevator, and then we would be able to add restrooms on the second story.”
Option three would cost $300,000-plus with the upstairs restroom option, which is what the historical society is really after.
“In our opinion, the only one that was really feasible that would help both the town hall, which is not really accessible, and the opera house, would be to put a tower on the brick street (Main Street) side of the opera house, so we’d have another entrance to the opera house, which isn’t a bad thing either because another access would be good,” Bailey said.
“There are not a lot of plans available for that building, which way the beams run, etc., and if we put it inside we would lose so much floor space that we can’t really afford to lose,” Bailey continued.
Construction could take up to a decade or more, says Sheets.
“The elevator would be placed on the exterior of the opera house, but of course, it would be made to enhance the town hall,” Sheets said. “It wouldn’t take away from the historical value. That’s what we’re all about.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Bailey had only about $7,000 raised for construction. Then, Ohio Arts Council regional program coordinator Kathy Cain visited for a November show, and that got the ball rolling.
“She was here for a couple days, and we did programs at Lake Schools, a library program and opera house program,” said Bailey, who is also the Grand Rapids Town Hall programming director and Pemberville Free Fair entertainment chair.
“I said to her, ‘You’ve got to help me find some money.’ And, she told me about the capital bill and essentially, I got home that night, I ‘Googled’ it and I found it, and I found that essentially it was a biennial bill and it had closed about two weeks earlier on the first of November.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’m stuck for two more years. I can’t go after that. We’ll just have to keep plowing along and do some major fundraising to help get this going,’” Bailey said.
“In the meantime, about (five) weeks ago, I got an email from the Ohio Arts Council, essentially saying they wanted more arts projects included in this bill, and they wanted them submitted by the end of November, and I received this just short of Thanksgiving. So it was like, ‘I’ve got to get cracking.’
“So, I contacted Mayor Bowman, and he and I each took a copy of the questionnaire and we each wrote answers, and I sent it to Dan Wilkins and he sort of married the two answers, Mayor Bowman’s and mine, and I then I sent it onto my son, who wrote grants for the Cherry Street Mission, and I had him tweak it.
“I submitted that, and then I got a call a week later where I had to submit other information and that changed the whole outlook a little bit,” Bailey said.
Donations to help the elevator along can be sent to the Pemberville Freedom Historical Society, c/o Opera House Elevator Fund, P.O. Box 802, Pemberville, Ohio 43450.