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County hoping to receive $875,000 from state for new archive

With dreams of a county archive dancing in their heads, leaders in Washington County may soon put the issue of how to fund it to bed.
The Tennessee Legislature reportedly will consider in its budget an $875,000 state appropriation to get the archive and genealogy center up and running in Washington County.
“It will be used for renovations and a potential expansion,” said Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge of the possible appropriation. “It’s going to include things related to making this more of a heritage/tourism attraction, helping make it an economic development asset to Washington County.”
State Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) has asked for the appropriation for the archive project.
“As of right now, it looks very good for it to happen,” Hill said. “We’re excited, but it is not a done deal at this point.”
Hill said several factors play a role in the area receiving the money.
“It is something that has been on the drawing board for decades,” Hill said. “Washington County as well as the Town of Jonesborough were able to clearly demonstrate that everybody is on the same page with this issue.”
If granted, the money would be officially given to the Town of Jonesborough for the project. Hill said he wrote the request that way because the town has so much experience in handling grant funding.
Town leaders would then hand over the money to the county to create the archive.
The facility is expected to be housed in the current Washington County Office Building on Main Street in downtown Jonesborough.
“The money will be used for construction and extensive renovation of the building,” Hill said. “Getting this appropriation for the archive is huge. It means the difference between having a place to store your papers or having a place to show off Washington County. This is going to be a showpiece for all of Northeast Tennessee.”
Local officials will have to wait until next year to see if the nearly $1 million remains in the final version of the state budget.
“The Public Records Commission will use these next four months to look into all of the options that this provides to significantly enhance the opportunities of the archive of Washington County,” Eldridge said. “In the meantime, we will expect to go out and get the support of all our local legislation.”
The Town of Jonesborough, at its Dec. 12 Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, unanimously passed a resolution supporting the appropriation for the archives and genealogy center.
“The development of an archives that just knocks your socks off for Washington County, located on Main Street in Jonesborough, will be a very important part of the success of our town for a long time to come,” said Kelly Wolfe, Jonesborough mayor. “People will go to great lengths to view documents dealing with their heritage and genealogy. It will be a great boost to Washington County and the town.”
According to Wolfe, several local leaders, including himself and Hill, met with Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell earlier this year and gave her a tour of Jonesborough, Washington County and the surrounding area.
“One of the things she was most impressed with was the passion the people of Jonesborough and Washington County have for their heritage,” Wolfe said. “We’ve got an opportunity here, according to Representative Hill, to capture this enthusiasm of Speaker Harwell and hopefully secure some funding of the archives from the state budget.”
The archive project already is well on its way, but the state appropriation would make it come to fruition sooner rather than later.
The county’s Public Records Commission has spent much of the year dealing with several tasks related to the creation of an archive, including securing a location for the facility and sorting through the county’s thousands of boxes containing historic documents.
In July, the county began collecting fees on certain documents filed within the county to help fund the creation of an archive. So far, an estimated $75,000 has been collected through the fees.
A search for an archivist to work at the facility also is underway.