Friday, October 17, 2008
(Last modified: 2010-07-08 09:58:02)
Source: The Herald-News
The Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton, made famous for hosting the "Monkey Scopes Trial" in 1925, will be getting much-needed cosmetic work if the County Commission approves a courthouse historic preservation grant at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The County Commission discussed the particulars of the grant at its Tuesday, Oct. 14 workshop meeting.
The grant requires a 40 percent match from the county. According to the grant terms, the Tennessee Historical Committee would provide $35,000 and the county would need to come up with $23,000.
Rhea County Executive Billy Ray Patton has recommended that the County Commission approve the grant and pay the county´┐1/2s portion with hotel-motel tax funds. Currently, the county has hotel-motel tax reserves of about $55,000.
Considering the belt-tightening the county has done this year with its budget, the commissioners voiced concerns during the workshop with spending money on courthouse renovations.
Patton said the county may not need to spend all of the $58,000, and commissioner Bill Hollin strongly suggested that the commission should award bids for contracting work for no more than that amount.
"We don't have a lot of money left, but this is a good grant," commissioner John Mincy said during Tuesday's workshop.
The grant money would mainly cover exterior work, according to Patton, which would include window repair, painting the outside of the courthouse and fixing the bell tower.
Patton said the windows need immediate work, as some are out of alignment. In addition, the paint on the outside of the building is faded and chipped, he said.
Ronnie Raper, chairman of the county commission, said the bell tower needs mortar work and additional brick placing, which would be the most expensive portion of the renovation. However, he noted that if the tower doesn´┐1/2t receive care within the next 25 years, the mortar could break down.
Although the Tennessee Historical Commission awarded the grant several months ago, Patton said he only recently received the paperwork to finalize the award.
Patton added that he has applied for a second grant for further work on the courthouse and is currently waiting on paperwork before bringing the grant before the county commission for approval.
"For the first grant I would like to do exterior work, then use the second grant for interior work," Patton explained in a phone interview on Friday.
If the commissioners approve the grant at Tuesday's county commission meeting, they will start soliciting bids for contractors, said Patton.
The Rhea County Courthouse gained worldwide attention in the summer of 1925 when John T. Scopes was tried and convicted of teaching evolution in a local public school.
Dayton would not have garnered media attention if not for the two big names showcased in the trial: Clarence Darrow, the nation´┐1/2s best defense lawyer in the 1920s, and William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State.
Today, the courthouse is a National Historic Landmark and a Scopes Trial Museum is housed in its basement.
The County Commission regularly meets at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in the main courtroom at the Rhea County Courthouse.
Michelle Friesen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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