The committees working to keep the Chautauqua building for future generations looked to the Shelbyville City Council for support before moving forward.
Wayne Gray, former chairman of the Chautauqua Preservation Committee, explained the structuring of the ad hoc committee that has formed after the disbanding of the five-year-old Preservation committee. The original Preservation committee was formed to raise funds to restore the 110-year-old structure that sits in Forest Park. In February the city council considered the possibility of tearing down the structure instead of spending city funds to help with the restoration work. That action prompted public response and the formation of the ad hoc committee.
“We have the framework put together to go forward. Now we’re looking for your support to work with us,” Gray told the council Monday evening.
The committee is comprised of three subcommittees who will be writing the business and usage plan for the building; who will be in charge of raising funds and publicity; and who will manage and oversee construction and the projects.
“Basically we are looking for the city’s blessing to go forward,” Gray said.
“Conceptually it is a good idea. Hopefully we can go forward,” said Mayor Jeff Johnson. “The council wants to see the building restored, but money is an issue.”
Most council members agreed that they would like to see the business plan before committing to it. The business plan would define uses that would help financially maintain the Chautauqua building.
“I would be interested in a business usage plan. That would determine if I vote to spend money on this,” said commissioner Brent Fogleman.
“The whole package is important to the $2 million project. Your business plan is important,” said commissioner Gib Smart.
Commissioner Bill Shoaff noted that the restoration project may not keep the building as historically as it was, but will be adapted to the needs of modern-day use.
“There is going to be changes from what it was,” said Shoaff. “I’m in favor of keeping it, but that’s a lot of money.”
Gray said that the committee wants to get a business plan completed and approved by the council by December to be able to apply for the Jeffers grant. The committee is looking to grants to help maintain the building.
“We haven’t done a good job as a city to keep it up over the past 40-50 years,” Gray said
Gray also proposed meeting with the engineering firm and architect Charles Pell to see what can be done to repair the weakness in the structure at present so that it can be insured again - a requirement for some of the grant applications. Estimated costs for repairs is $80 to $90,000.
“I’d hate to spend $80 to $90,000 of the little over $100,000 (raised by the Preservation committee) in the bank,” Gray said. He asked the city to commit $40,000 to the repair work.
“This would not drain the city’s coffers. From a visibility standpoint it is good for city to show support,” Gray said.
Vonda McConnell, founder of FaceBook page Save Our Chautauqua, told the council that there were several pledges waiting on the city’s commitment of support.
Monical’s Pizza owner Mark Shanks said that he has made a sizeable pledge and has sent part of it in. He is also waiting on the city’s commitment.
“We need to be looking at the Chautauqua as part of our future rather than a part of our past,” Shanks said. He said the auditorium could be a “centerpiece of tourism” for Shelbyville.
Gray said that Larry Burke and Mark Atteberry were willing to meet with the engineers and Pell. Mayor Johnson and Commissioner Thom Schafer also volunteered to be a part of the committee to meet with them.
“We have good schools, a hospital, an airport, and these were given to us by our parents and grandparents. We can do this for our children and grandchildren,” Johnson said.