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Board of Commissioners approves potential funds for Greater Litchfield Opera House Association Inc.

LITCHFIELD -- Meeker County will provide $5,000 toward the Litchfield Opera House if the historic building receives a Minnesota Historical Society grant.

County Administrator Paul Virnig said Wednesday that the County Board of Commissioners approved the matching of a $5,000 grant Tuesday as long as the state Historical Society awards the grant to the Greater Litchfield Opera House Association Inc.

"It's a neat deal. These people are making some efforts," Virnig said. "I just commend them for continuing to try to keep that building going."

According to association documents, the Greater Litchfield Opera House Association Inc. would use the grant for repairing, refinishing, and if necessary, replacing windows in the Litchfield Opera House. The association already received around $7,600 in donations last year to go toward the project.

"We have some windows, that are historic windows that are in very good shape, and all we'll be doing is refinishing and re-glazing them," said association chairwoman Darlene Kotelnicki, citing three original, half-circle spider windows of the opera house.

"And then we have some windows that we'll have to remake. ... And we have some that will need to be totally replaced."

Kotelnicki said the Historical Society won't notify the association about the grant awarding until May. If the state Historical Society gives the grant to the association, work on the windows will begin in June.

Kotelnicki said the association is optimistic it can receive the grant because its funds were included in the state budget for the last biennium. Kotelnicki attributed the funding to Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, who lobbied for more historic preservation.

The windows project is just another step of the "work in progress," Kotelnicki said.

The Greater Litchfield Opera House Association jumped into the renovations of the 108-year-old opera house about a year ago, starting with the interior demolition of the building.

The association took official ownership of the building in September 2007 when the city of Litchfield sold it for a 1900 silver dollar. Until then, the building had been vacant since 2002 because hazardous materials were found inside.

In other business Tuesday, the board learned that the Minnesota Department of Transportation compensated Meeker County $2,453 for the recent damage done to county roads 1 and 11 during the reconstruction of state Highway 22 through the county. The county roads were used for a detour around the construction site.