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Community pushes for tax hike vote

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio (Joe Webb) -- The push for a tax hike to pay for restoring Music Hall and Union Terminal got a boost Tuesday morning.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation added the two buildings to its list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places.  The national group joined the local effort to get the tax hike on the November ballot.

In the lobby of Music Hall Tuesday morning historic preservationists made history by putting two buildings from the same city on their list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.  What looked like a political rally also sounded like one.

John Hildreth of the Trust for Historic Preservation said, "With today's announcement the National Trust formally joins the Cultural Facilities Task Force in urging the Hamilton County commissioners to allow voters to decide this November whether taxes should be raised, in conjunction with private and corporate donations and grants, to restore Union Terminal and Music Hall."
The task force says it would cost $187 million to restore Union Terminal.  Monday, workers there showed Local 12 the water damage behind the historic murals caused by a leaky roof.  They estimated it will cost $109 million to restore Music Hall.

Tuesday the Cincinnati Opera's director of production gave Local 12 a backstage tour of the steep, narrow stairs, overflowing library and dated paint shop.  The 137-year-old place had old wiring and an aging grid that often held 20 to 25 tons of scenery and lights over the heads of performers.

"Safety's always a big concern with us.  That's why we're looking forward to this renovation of these systems that are currently state of the art-1970," said Glenn Plott of the Cincinnati Opera.
Now all that's needed is the money.  County commissioners have until August sixth to decide if a quarter-cent sales tax hike goes on the ballot.  The vote at Music Hall Tuesday would have been unanimous.

Otto Budig on the Music Hall revitalization committee said, "They are national and international architectural treasures that bring attention, prestige and joy to our region."
So far, Local 12 has only heard from supporters of the plan to raise the sales tax to pay for renovations.  Tuesday a spokesman for the tax watchdog group, COAST, issued a statement.  Board member Jeff Capell said it's unfair to raise taxes on all Hamilton County citizens to renovate two publicly-owned buildings.  He said Cincinnati needs to set better priorities and building a streetcar should not take priority over maintaining two very popular buildings.

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