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story.lead_photo.caption Brad Staley (left) and Josh Vance, with the secretary of state’s office, work Wednesday afternoon power washing the front of the state Capitol. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

A state council on Wednesday awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in state conservation and historic preservation grants each to the state treasurer, secretary of state, auditor and the Governor's Mansion.

The Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council handed out a $997,914 grant to state Treasurer Dennis Milligan; a $823,729 grant to Secretary of State John Thurston; a $566,000 grant to the Governor's Mansion; and a $445,178 grant to state Auditor Andrea Lea for improvements to their state-owned facilities.

The council on Wednesday afternoon approved a total of $24.7 million in grants to 16 state agencies, colleges and universities for fiscal 2020, which starts July 1.

Eighteen entities submitted 23 requests for a total of $41.8 million in funding, including a $14.6 million request by the state Department of Parks and Tourism and a $12.5 million request from the Department of Arkansas Heritage. The council heard pitches from officials for about three hours Wednesday morning.

The council awarded $8.2 million apiece to the Parks and Tourism Department and the Arkansas Heritage Department for various projects in fiscal 2020. Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst, who sits on the council, made that recommendation.

Hurst told the council that it historically aims to grant one-third of the available funding to each of the two departments and the rest to other state entities.

State law directs the council to use its funds -- from a real estate transfer tax -- for acquisition, management and stewardship of state-owned lands or the preservation of state-owned historic sites, buildings, structures or objects. The council also can spend money on objects determined to be of value for recreational or conservation projects.

Milligan requested a $1.45 million grant for restoring public spaces of the treasurer's office on the second floor of the state Capitol.

The $997,914 grant -- recommended by Hurst -- will fund phase one of the project: replace the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system that is about 38 years old and redesign duct work so it no longer hangs over the lobby, Milligan spokesman Stacy Peterson said after the meeting.

Phase one also includes making the office restroom accessible to people with disabilities and restoring the original paint scheme so that it blends in with similar paint schemes in the Capitol, she said.

The council agreed to provide the $823,729 grant requested by Thurston to replace roof areas of the Capitol. Hurst initially recommended providing about $354,000 for a first phase of the project.

"It's not a sexy project to present, but it is a very critical project," Gary Clements, president of Clements & Associates/Architecture Inc. told the council. "Nothing is more important than a well-maintained roof."

Afterward, Thurston said, "That money is going to good use. That's for sure."

The council opted to provide $566,000 of the $652,000 grant requested by the state Department of Finance and Administration's Division of Building Authority for a second phase of preservation of the Governor's Mansion. Hurst made that recommendation.

First lady Susan Hutchinson made a pitch for funds for a handful of facility and electrical upgrades, including upgrading the fire alarm system and the Grand Hall's lighting fixtures and audio-visual system. She also sought funds for several exterior improvements, including replacing and expanding lighting in gardens, adding path lighting from the west Grand Hall entrance to the mansion's front, adding a greenhouse in the herb and vegetable garden, and adding security bollards at the south gate.

The greenhouse would be cost effective, Hutchinson told the council.

"I would challenge any restaurant in the whole state to challenge our culinary chefs. But they rely heavily on those herbs and spices. It will cut down costs as we are having more and more people feast with us using the Grand Hall," she said.

The council opted not to fund the lowest-priority items -- the greenhouse, bollards and a ceiling replacement outside the kitchen, Arkansas Heritage spokesman Melissa Whitfield said afterward.

Afterward, Hutchinson said, "I'm just thrilled" with the council's decision.

"Like I said earlier, it is not romantic talking about fire alarms, and audio visual and security lighting and all that. But it's so useful. We are very, very thankful for it," she said.

"I don't like going to the Legislature for things like that. If we can get it through the grant process, I feel much better about asking for money that is actually designated ahead of time for state projects, state properties," Hutchinson said.

Three years ago, the council awarded a $1.1 million grant to the Governor's Mansion for renovations and the mansion later returned about $300,000 of that funding to the council.

The council followed Hurst's recommendation and approved the entire $445,178 grant requested by Lea for interior rehabilitation of her office in the Capitol.

"I'm thrilled to know they funded my project," Lea said afterward.

She told the council that she has been working for the last four and a half years to leave her office's internal operations better than she found them.

"Now I want to do that with the actual office space itself," she said.

Lea said she plans to renovate her space on the north side of the office, which abuts the governor's office, to allow the governor's office to use it. She wants to renovate space on the south end for her own office.

The council also approved the following:

• $1 million to Arkansas Forestry Commission for the Hot Springs National Park recharge area and Poison Springs State Forest acquisitions.

• $896,690 to Southern Arkansas University Tech to renovate its administrative building.

• $750,000 to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, to complete restoration of the Human Environmental Science Building; $150,000 toward removing the first 50 years of the concrete senior walk and replacing it with granite panels; and $50,000 toward making historic records related to the Powhatan native Americans available to the public in an easy-to-use format.

• $691,140 to South Arkansas Community College to rehabilitate the Works Progress Administration 1940 gymnasium.

• $512,823 to the Arkansas School for the Deaf toward phase three of the Parnell Hall restoration.

• $512,050 to Arkansas State University at Jonesboro to renovate a historic building in the Dyess Colony Circle to serve as a rural life research center; and $126,000 for phase one of the Pfeiffer farmstead destruction and reconstruction in Clay County.

• $400,000 to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith toward phase four of the Willhaf House restoration.

• $204,644 to the University of Arkansas Community College at Rich Mountain for renovation of the historic armory in Mena.

• $71,927 to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for compact shelving for archival collections.

• $57,205 to the Arkansas Archeological Survey to produce a comprehensive inventory of artifacts from the Tom Jones site in the Grandview Prairie Wildlife Management Area.

Metro on 05/09/2019

Print Headline: State OKs preservation grants

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