Delayed funding

City of Ghent closer to receiving
a building for multi-purpose use

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

GHENT, Ky. (April 2005) – Citizens of Ghent have decided a multi-purpose building would benefit the entire community. They have patiently waited for the last several years, hoping to see this plan come to fruition.

Ghent Church

Photo by Don Ward

Plans call for restoration
of historic church for public use.

A citizen’s committee submitted a grant application in 2001 for a federal TEA-21 (Transportation Enhancement Authority) grant, which would aid in restoration efforts of the former Ghent Christian Church. The committee asked for $350,000, with the aid of Stacey Dietrich, a representative of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District.
On Oct. 15, 2003, then Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton presented a check for $200,000, not quite the asked for amount. The TEA-21 grant money is derived from the state’s gasoline taxes and used for similar projects within the state.
Plans call for restoring the former church as an historic building for multi-purpose use, said Ghent Mayor Bob Sundermeyer. Uses will include museum space, a welcome center facility, a location for weddings and parties to be held and space in the rear of the building for city hall offices.
Until recently, the city had been kept in the dark as to where the much-needed funds went. “We’re just waiting to get the word, to pass along to the citizens,” said commissioner Joey Beall, who compared the process to being in a state of limbo.
Located at Fishing and Union streets, the Ghent Christian Church was built in 1872. When the church dissolved in 1985, an Amish group purchased it. The city eventually bought it from the Amish.
After the city paid down a certain amount of the loan, life-long Ghent resident Evelyn Sanders paid off the remaining amount. Sanders was a former city commissioner whose generous monetary donation ensured the city’s ownership of the building.
The city of Ghent purchased the building with several goals in mind, one of which was to convert the rear exterior portion to house City Hall offices. Renovation efforts on this area began in February 2005, and city officials hope to be moved in by April, said mayor pro-temp Bill Harmon. Work is being accomplished piecemeal, to stay within a budget and not incur any debts.
Using city funding, the renovated portion will contain a meeting room and bathroom in addition to city hall offices. As to the issue of staffing, once a museum-welcome center is installed, “The city clerk will be a facilitator for this,” said Beall.
As a museum, the building will be a useful tool for genealogy researchers who wish to learn more about their family history, and the river and tobacco history of the area.
“It’s a shame the building is deteriorating the way it is,” said Harmon. When the building was in the possession of the Amish, they removed the church steeple after it fell into disrepair. The old steeple posed a danger, and it is hoped a new one will be constructed when funds become available.
In an effort to facilitate matters, Harmon said the city was, “In the process of securing another one (grant).”
Since the city has applied for the grant and received it, they are now at the stage to sign a contract, said Sundermeyer. Within the contract are limitations of what to do and not do with the building. The city was given 1 1/2 years to sign the contract. Many things must be taken into consideration since the final signature will make the contract binding.
A final letter must be written to ensure that the contract is accurate and acceptable. By early summer, Sundermeyer hopes to have all issues resolved.
Ghent’s State Representative, Rick Rand, facilitated a meeting last fall with state officials in Frankfort to discuss possible funding resources. Rand and Magistrate Mark Bates, who helped with writing the grant, have been instrumental in moving this project forward. “Without Rand, we would have got the grant, but not the money,” said Sundermeyer.
A state registered architect will be hired to ensure that the renovation work is done property, once funds are received. “The architect will run the show as far as spending the money,” said Sundermeyer. Experts have estimated that a half a million dollars is needed to complete this project.
Sundermeyer said in addition to the $200,000 grant, some pledges have been made, and $300,000 more is needed. Local companies that have pledged support include North American Stainless and Warner Ladder of Carrollton. Craig Construction of Carrollton offered free use of construction equipment for this project.
The city must provide 20 percent of the grant money, which they already have. The building was assessed at the needed amount of $50,000. An official state advisor must reassess it, but Sundermeyer is confident this will not be a problem. “It is just a matter of time before we move on,” he said.
A steering committee comprised of Ghent citizens may be formed in the future to make sure the community’s goals are met for this project. Beal wants to keep citizens up to date, but so far, “there’s nothing to pass along yet,” he said. Like everyone else, he is still waiting for the official word form Frankfort to continue this project.

• For more information or to contribute to the museum-welcome center fund, contact the City of Ghent at (502) 347-9706.

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