ATHENS — The Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives is expected to start operating next year in a new home, in part of the adjacent Limestone County Event Center.

The Limestone County Commission on Tuesday authorized, in a 4-0 vote, the county attorney to prepare a deed transferring the center to the veterans museum board, which will manage both operations.

The document will include a clause that the event center building would revert to the county if the building is no longer used as a veterans museum.

Limestone County Attorney Mark Maclin said a final draft of a deed will be presented to the commission for its approval. The commission’s next work session is Wednesday and the next regular meeting will be Sept. 16.

“We’re on the path to make this happen,” said Jerry Crabtree, president of the museum’s board of directors. “It’ll be six to nine months before we open as a museum/event center.

“We’ll make Limestone County and the city of Athens proud.”

The county owns both the veterans museum and event center buildings, and the museum leases from the county its current location in the 100-year-old former L&N freight depot, at 100 W. Pryor St.

Museum officials, who have said they need more space for their exhibits and programs, plan to convert the north part of the event center building into a new museum location, and the south side of the building where a stage is located will remain available for event rental.

The museum's capital campaign has raised about $500,000 in donations, and Crabtree said the money will be used to remodel the event center building “to get it to museum standards.”

Crabtree said the museum isn’t planning to charge admission to the museum, and donations will continue to be accepted.

“I consider this a great success,” said District 4 Commissioner Ben Harrison. “We found a way to get it off the county and benefit the veterans museum.”

The county bought the building from Pilgrim’s Pride in January 2007 for $130,000, and renovation and other costs for the project were about $2.2 million, according to County Administrator Pam Ball.

The fiscal 2019 budget includes about $131,700 for the center, including maintenance, utilities and insurance for the building and contents.

“County government does not need to be in the entertainment business,” Harrison said. “We shouldn’t have been involved in that in the first place.”

The museum board originally planned to build a new 8,000-square-foot education center, with an exhibit area and classrooms, to the north of the existing museum. Future phases had included an outdoor exhibit for large artifacts and renovation of the existing museum.

marian.accardi@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.

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