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Constitution Square finally belongs to Boyle County

March 08, 2012|By DAVID BROCK | dbrock@amnews.com
  • Boyle County Public Works employee Gary Caldwell cleans up branches Wednesday at Constitution Square.
Clay Jackson/cjackson@amnews.com

After months of discussions and working out legal language, Boyle County officially took ownership of Constitution Square State Historic Site this week.

Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said all of the necessary paperwork at the state level was signed and delivered earlier this week, and the deed was filed Tuesday with the Boyle County Clerk’s Office.

“We’re knew this was coming, but we are obviously very pleased,” McKinney said.  

Gil Lawson, spokesman for the state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said there hasn’t been full-time staff at the park for months, and the gift shop was closed as the state prepared to transition control to the county. He said workers, who have continued checking on the park, have been reassigned to other locations.

One of the items that took the longest to finalize was a 27-page conservation easement that outlines preservation of the site where the state constitution was signed in 1792. 

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McKinney said he is confident the county will be able to maintain the park’s character while increasing its use by local residents and tourists. 

County workers were already at the park Wednesday afternoon doing light maintenance. Boyle County Public Works Director Duane Campbell said a crew picked up debris and cut back limbs, some of which were still left hanging from the 2009 ice storm.

County officials will meet next week with representatives from the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership about when the organizations that make up the EDP will begin renovating and moving into many of the buildings on the perimeter of the park.

Plans that have been previously discussed would keep the Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with the visitors center, in Grayson’s Tavern. 

The Heart of Danville and a gift shop would be located in the Goldsmith House, and the Boyle County Industrial Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce would be in buildings on Fisher’s Row.

The School House would be used as a conference center. A number of options are being considered for the Watts-Bell House, including a space for a start-up business.

The money for the work is already in place. Boyle County was awarded a $500,000 Economic Development Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that will be used for work on the Fisher’s Row buildings.

The grant will be administered by the county, but restoration and updates to the buildings will be coordinated by the Heart of Danville. 

Former Heart of Danville executive director Julie Wagner was set to oversee the projects, but McKinney said the work will be in good hands with interim director Brenda Willoughby, who served as the park’s director for 17 years.

In addition to providing a centralized economic development hub, moving several of the groups from the McClure-Barbee House on South Fourth Street should save the EDP more than $21,000 in rent and utility payments.

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