The Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs awarded $3.12 million in grants on Friday, including what supporters say should be the final grant to complete the historic Fourth Ward School in Virginia City.
The school restoration project, which has been getting money through the annual grants program since the program was created 14 years ago, was awarded $120,000 to finish the job. When completed, the historic school will be turned into an archive to preserve and provide access to historic papers and records from the Comstock Days.
The other major project in Virginia City, Piper's Opera House, was also awarded grant money this year. But the $110,000 dedicated to Piper's won't be the last funding the project needs to complete the basement and restore the floor near the opera house and theater's stage.
The school and several other projects received money from the commission because they are near completion. Elko County's Old Tuscarora Tavern was awarded $160,000 to finish that project, The Golconda School House $50,000, Dayton's Historic Firehouse/Jail $44,000 and the Gold Hill Railroad Station $75,000. Those awards should complete restoration work on all those projects.
"The commission puts a lot of weight on finishing a project. Where there's an opportunity to allow public access, we give that a lot of weight," said commission Chairman Bob Ostrovsky.
Member Mike Hillerby said the problem commissioners face is that there just isn't enough money for all the projects that deserve awards.
"When there's $9 million in requests and $3 million to give, it's tough," he said.
The commission took two days to hear from applicants, question them about their projects and then sort out how much money to give to each.
In the final debate over funding, the commission decided to increase the funding for the Stewart Indian School restoration. The $124,000 originally slated for that project was raised to $150,000 to do critical electrical work, fire safety projects and replace the floor.
In Reno, the commission voted $102,000 to begin restoring the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium. To get the money, they asked that the University of Nevada Reno and the Board of Regents commit to restoring that famous structure. That request was made because several years ago, then-UNR President John Lilly sought to tear it down for a parking garage project. The resulting community outrage forced Lilly to back off.
The problem-plagued Lear Theater project in downtown Reno was awarded $110,000 contingent on getting $5.5 million in tax breaks. Commissioners served notice the Lear project won't get any more money in the future unless organizers "get their act together."
One project that lost its requested $66,000 in funding in the final discussions was the plan to provide handicapped access to the Genoa Courthouse Museum. Historic Preservation Officer Ron James told the commission he didn't think the proposed 30-foot-long ramp would meet code. Commissioners all agreed handicapped access was a desirable project for any historic building, but asked supporters of that project to work with James to develop a mutually acceptable alternative to the long, straight ramp and bring a proposal back to the commission next year.
Also zeroed out was the Carson Valley Arts Council request to convert the Minden Wood & Lumber Company's old building into a theater. Member Bob Stoldal said he didn't think the commission knew enough about that building and how usable it would be. Patricia Iannuzzi added that there are numerous problems, including poor acoustics, which argue against converting that building into a theater.
The largest single grant awarded this year was $350,000 to the Las Vegas Federal Building/Post Office project. The commission receives $3 million each year from cultural preservation bonds approved by the Legislature. The extra it was able to award this year was the $120,000 in interest the bond money earned before last year's grants were actually paid out.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.