The Sullivan County Commission voted Monday to fund $30,000 worth of maintenance to county-owned historic sites within the Blountville Historic District.
The vote also adds $10,000 per year to the county maintenance department’s budget specifically for upkeep on the sites, which include the Old Deery Inn and its outbuildings, the Anderson Townhouse, the Rutledge House and the old Sheriff’s Home (which is slated to become a welcome center).
Speaking prior to the vote, Commissioner Dennis Houser, lead sponsor of the proposal, noted the county has received three grants over the years to preserve some of the buildings. But, he said, the county’s maintenance department has never been given a designated fund to keep the buildings up.
In some cases, the department lacks proper equipment to perform some tasks, Houser said last week.
The buildings in question are within sight of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse in which the commission meets.
The Old Deery Inn has not been repainted in 15 years, and the Rutledge House only has a primer coat of paint on it from that same year, according to Houser’s resolution.
“We have a major investment ... and it is something we need to maintain. It could generate a lot of tourism, a lot of sales tax,” Houser said.
The maintenance department does a good job with what resources it has, Houser said.
“But they are limited by resources and the amount of money that we budget,” Houser said. “We don’t have a lot of money for this. The cities have their hotel/motel taxes that they use for tourism. We’re going to try to work on something that could help generate money for this fund.”
Houser said the grant-funded preservation efforts were followed by privately owned historic homes also being restored by their owners.
“If you walk up the street, it speaks for itself,” Houser said. “It’s contagious.”
“This is the county seat,” Commissioner Joe Herron said, after thanking Houser for years of dedication to preserving local historic sites. “We as a commission have the opportunity to step up. A lot of tourism comes into the area. A lot of times ... it’s cheaper to go ahead and fix this up rather than letting it fall down and then it multiplies what it would have cost now.”
All 22 commissioners present voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the funding.