Danville will keep ‘certified local government’ tag after hiring preservationist

Published 8:25 am Friday, December 22, 2017

Danville has hired a preservation coordinator, allowing the city to maintain its status as a “certified local government” — a designation that qualifies it for certain grants and indicates it does the right things to preserve historical structures.

Joni House, manager of the Perryville Battlefield state historic site, began working part-time for Danville on top of her Perryville duties on Nov. 20. Creating the position will cost the city between $20,000 and $25,000 annually, according to Bridgette Lester, director of code enforcement and a coordinator for the city’s Architectural Heritage Board.

House, who is working about 15 hours a week for Danville, said she is still “getting up to speed” by learning about the different ongoing projects around Danville and reading through the ordinances, guidelines and more she’ll be working with.

Her job includes providing the AHB with staff reports on projects that need certificates of appropriateness — her first staff report was used by the AHB Wednesday to approve a certificate for a new sign at Tut’s Egyptian restaurant on West Main Street.

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House will also be helping write grant applications for the city — something AHB members said they were excited about, given that it’s now time to be looking at what grants to apply for in the coming year. Lester said a major grant application deadline for the Kentucky Heritage Council — the organization that offers grants to “certified local governments” — is coming up on Feb. 16.

Nick Wade with the Heart of Danville asked that one of the grants the AHB consider pursuing be for a window restoration workshop, which would teach downtown business owners and residents how to properly restore and maintain their historic windows.

“There are several property owners and homeowners in town that are interested,” Wade said. “They want to take care of their windows, but they don’t know where to begin. They want to learn so they have that knowledge that they can do it themselves.”

House said she may eventually also be able to tackle something city officials have suggested previously: handling approvals of low-level projects such as routine maintenance on historic buildings so that property owners don’t have to wait for an AHB meeting to get approval.

House is qualified to hold the preservationist position thanks to a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Kentucky. Lester said the Kentucky Heritage Council has formally approved House as meeting the requirements for the position.

House said she’s enjoying the additional work, which is a change of pace from her Perryville Battlefield duties.

“I really just wanted to do something a little different. And I spent a lot of money on this big expensive education, and a lot of that applied directly to what certified local governments do and how to deal with historic districts within the city landscape,” she said. 

House said she intends to stay at Perryville Battlefield.

“I’m not going anywhere at Perryville for a while.”

Having a historic preservationist on staff or contracting with a company to provide preservationist services is one of the requirements from the Kentucky Heritage Council in order for cities to maintain their certified local government status. Danville is one of 23 communities in Kentucky that have earned the designation; it became a certified local government in 1993.

Previously, former Heart of Danville Director Bethany Rogers helped Danville meet the requirement because she had an appropriate degree. But after Rogers left in September 2016, the city no longer had a qualified preservationist, which could have led to the loss of the certified local government status.

The City of Danville planned in early 2017 to spend up to $80,000 to hire a historic preservationist, though members of Danville City Commission were critical of spending that much. The city had eliminated the $80,000 line item from its budget as of early June, according to City Manager Ron Scott at the time.

House said she thinks Danville’s downtown has been “preserved pretty well — and I’ve seen a lot of downtowns that haven’t been.”

“I love downtown Danville. I’m a Boyle County citizen; I’ve lived here for about 13 years now. I come downtown often. I’m a big supporter of our local businesses,” she said. “I don’t like ‘generica;’ I like what makes small town America, small town America. And Danville is a great example of that.”