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Washington County Commission approves funds for museum

The Washington County Commission approved a request for American Rescue Plan Act funding for the Ohio River Museum Thursday morning.

Jean Yost with the Northwest Territory Museum Society requested and received $150,000 from the commission

“It’s time to move forward. Twelve years ago, the two museums (Campus Martius and the Ohio River museums) were going to close because Ohio ran out of money. A group of us took over and in two years, we’ve doubled the attendance and doubled the hours we’ve been open. And reduced prices so that the people in the neighborhood could come in.” Yost said. “Ten years ago, we applied for our first funding to do something at the Ohio River Museum. We knew there were problems there.”

He said funding had been arranged, but the day before it was to be announced, the U.S. Senate changed the rules and disallowed all museum projects.

He said they set aside fundraising at the time because the Peoples Bank Theatre had a big fundraiser, as well as the Armory.

Five years ago, the museum board entered into an agreement with the Washington County Public Library to go into partnership on the project. Library officials had been studying for seven years what they could do to help Washington County with library services, he said.

For about a third of what they expected to pay for a county-wide upgrade, the library board will get a needed 2,000-square-foot meeting area in the new Ohio River Museum by partnering with the museum board, Yost said.

“Their staff will be in our museums, taking our tickets and selling our museum store material. Our staff person who would sit there all day and take admissions, will now do outreach and programming and program development,” he said.

The new 24,000-square-foot building is about five times what they have now.

Yost said the collection will be about 12-feet above street level, so it will be a two-story building. In case of a flood, they will still be 8-feet above the 500 year flood plain, he said.

He said they looked at every way they could reuse the current building, but structurally, it wouldn’t work.

The new building would bring the vision of what they need to fruition, as well as giving the museum adequate parking. They acquired a lot next door to help expand parking.

Commission President Kevin Ritter said he abstained from the ARPA funding vote as he’s on the museum board, “but I do want my colleagues to know I think this is a good idea.”

“I think it deserves funding. What Jean has asked for on behalf of the group is $150,000 in funding,” he said. “What we’re talking about is being on the ground level of a project that will bring great attention not only to the City of Marietta, but to the entire county and the entire region.”

The Northwest Ordinance, written in 1787, established two great ideas in the country’s history, he added.

“One was the idea of public education, and the other … it forbid slavery in the five states that eventually were created out of the Northwest Territory,” Ritter explained. “This is of incredible historical importance and we hold that document … we have that history. It’s not something we’ve capitalized on in this area and that’s something I’d like to be on the ground floor of.”

Yost said the request was for $150,000, but they still need $570,000 to finish the project.

He has gone before the Marietta City Council in recent weeks, asking for $300,000 in ARPA funding from the share the city received.

In other commission news, the board signed a lease agreement with the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority. The port authority will move from 204 Front St., Marietta, to the courthouse annex where it will lease 169 square feet of office space for $400 per month.

Jesse Roush, SEOPA executive director, said they should be moved into the offices by the first of the year, as they have to retrofit the offices, which are located in the commissioner’s section of the annex.

***

Dates to Remember:

¯ Regular commission meeting, 9 a.m. Thursday, courthouse annex.

¯ Bid opening for Transit RFP, 10 a.m. Thursday, commission office.

¯ Public viewing for T-171 vacation, 11 a.m. Nov. 10.

¯ Regular commission meeting, 9 a.m. Nov. 10, courthouse annex.

¯ Courthouse closed Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.

¯ Devola sewer public meeting, 7 p.m. Nov. 16, WSCC.

Source: Washington County Commission Clerk.

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