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Britt gardens restoration depends on funding issues

An effort to restore the Peter Britt gardens stalled temporarily Tuesday when no member of the Jacksonville City Council would second a motion to pursue a grant totaling about $20,000 for initial work at the site. But the council will reconsider the issue in a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

"We have to resolve funding issues versus benefits," said Councilman Dan Winterburn. "We all think it's a great thing to have, and I'd like to see it, too. I don't have any objections other than wanting to see clear financial plans for the whole project."

Garden restoration planning has been under way for four years, with the city leading the way to coordinate details with Jackson County, the Peter Britt Music Festival and civic organizations. Formal gardens would be restored, fountains and ponds reconstructed and a wrought- iron replica of the Peter Britt House erected.

Applications for the Oregon Heritage Commission grant must be in by Oct. 4. Project costs have been estimated at $40,000, with $20,000 coming from matching funds.

Realignment of pathways though the garden to allow recreation of the Peter Britt House foundation along with grading and retaining wall work are proposed.

"It's the kingpin," said Larry Smith, a member of the city parks committee. "You have to get the hardscape in place before the rest of this can be done."

Councilman Paul Becker moved to go forward with the grant application, but there was no second.

"There's a lot of money involved with this, but I think we are going to get it back through tourists," said Mayor Bruce Garrett, who is not allowed to second council motions.

Councilman Chris Gilman, chairman of the city parks committee, said the committee voted Wednesday that $10,000 in parks system development charges should be used for the project.

"I now have backing from the committee," said Gilman. "I see the importance of this."

To meet the match requirement, city officials would use the $10,000, plus $5,000 that Jacksonville's Booster Club has committed $5,000 toward the work. The rest of the project match would come from volunteer engineering services offered by Mike Thorton Engineering of Jacksonville.

Winterburn also expressed concerns that the property does not belong to the city and said he was reluctant to invest city money until it does. The city has been negotiating with Jackson County, which owns the property. An agreement to transfer the property is in final stages, but the actual exchange may not happen for several more months.

Smith initially sent an e-mail to all council members expressing disappointment at the lack of support, but later said he was pleased with the meeting plans.

"I'm really happy the City Council had decided to go ahead with a special meeting so that we can meet the deadline," said Smith. "There's positive action happening now."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com