By Jessica Mathews /

The City of Howell is pursuing a certification that could aid in securing grant funds for the historic Opera House.

Staff has been in discussions with representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office or SHPO regarding possible funding opportunities. All historic preservation funds available through the state go through that office and to qualify, the City must become a Certified Local Government.

At a recent meeting, Council approved a motion authorizing outgoing Mayor Nick Proctor to draft a letter requesting certification, which will be provided to staff and submitted along with the application for certification.

Community Development Director Nick Tafelsky told Council the City already has a local Historic District Ordinance and Commission that are required by the state, as well as an established district - which currently only encompasses the Opera House. He said the intent of going through the application process is to qualify the City for grant funding through the state office so in theory, one day the Opera House could get fixed up to its former glory.

Mayor Proctor noted he brought up the idea to see if it was feasible or not. Proctor said in full disclosure, he serves on the Livingston Arts Council board which has been discussing funding mechanisms to rehabilitate the second-floor theater area of the Howell Opera House. Proctor said he was thinking of different ways the City could possibly facilitate channeling money and this was one option – noting Tafelsky did a lot of research and it is feasible.

Once certified, the City would have access to specialized technical assistance and programming through the State Historic Preservation Office and be eligible to apply for annual grant funding. That could then be used for planning tasks, rehab planning, or physical rehab as the Opera House is already owned by a non-profit and in the National Historic Register.