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Russell gets a lift

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RUSSELL — The potential audience for performances at the Russell Opera House will expand thanks to a grant acquired through the Regional Economic Development Council.

The town of Russell will receive $117,705 to replace the roof of the Town Hall and install a lift that will make the second-floor theater — known as the opera house — handicapped accessible.

“We definitely know some people who would like to be able to use it,” Supervisor Robert C. Best Jr. said.

The town and supporters of the opera house, which features concerts and plays, had thought a ramp would work, but plans were rejected by the state because the Town Hall — completed in 1921 — is a designated historic building with arched windows and rows of wooden seats in the theater.

“They wouldn’t even allow a lift on the outside,” Mr. Best said.

The building’s front has a set of steep steps. There is a rear entrance that can reach the theater with fewer steps but it is not fully accessible. The Town Hall also includes the post office and a community room.

To be shovel-ready, the town already has had a historic architect draw up a design for the lift and asked for cost estimates. Supporters of the Opera House raised about $10,000 toward the 25 percent cost-share with the grant.

The lift will go in the location of a handicapped-accessible bathroom that grant money will help to replace.

The state money also will pay to replace the roof, which the town has been patching.

“If you don’t have a good roof on, the building’s in danger,” Mr. Best said. “I’m real excited about the roof, too.”

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