Somerville receives $50,000 for courthouse work
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A drive in Somerville to raise money for the restoration of Morgan County's first courthouse received a boost this week when District 9 State Rep. Ronald Grantland announced a $50,000 state grant for the project.
Speaking to a group of the town's elected officials and interested citizens on Monday evening, Grantland said he was able to get $50,000 appropriated for the restoration project as a line item in the 2006-07 state budget. The money will become available Oct. 1.
"When you talk about the history of Morgan County you have to include the Somerville Courthouse," Grantland pointed out. "It's a beautiful old building and a great asset to our county."
The building was erected in 1837 as Morgan County's first seat of government and was occupied for a short time by Union troops during the Civil War. When the county seat was moved to Decatur in the late 1900s the building was used as a schoolhouse. Currently, a portion of the first floor is used as municipal courtroom and voting center.
"When I took office in 1960 it was vacant and most of the windows had been knocked out," recalled former long-time Mayor J.T. Williams. "Me and another man installed wiring and over the years repairs were made to help preserve it. I'm happy to see that progress is being made to restore it to its original state."
As a member of the House Budget Committee, a position he landed at the start of the last legislative session, Grantland said he will continue to seek funding for the project, which is expected to cost about $200,000.
"This money will enable us to start drawing down on a $95,000 federal matching grant," said Mayor Ray Long. "We'll meet with the architect and decide when we need to go out for bids. My goal is to have the restoration under way before the end of the year."
He said the first phase of work would include an upgrade of the building's foundation along with repairs to the brick walls and windows and doors. The estimated cost is $120,000.
"I'm elated about the grant because it will make the project go faster than what we anticipated," said Lisa Powell, chairperson of the Courthouse Restoration Committee. "We have been able to raise about $18,000 for the project locally and we will continue this effort. All donations are appreciated."
Grantland and his family have close ties to Somerville. His great-great-Grandfather Robert Samples owed and operated a general merchandise on the courthouse square in the late 800s and his grandfather Gilbert Johnson operated s business there from 1931 to 1935. He was born and raised on Highway 36 between Somerville and Cotaco.