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Attendees of the dedication and unveiling event of the Clarence Darrow Commemorative Statue fill the Rhea County Courthouse lawn Friday, July 14, 2017, in Dayton, Tennessee. William Jennings Bryan was honored by a statue being commissioned by Bryan College and created by Cessna Decosimo in 2005 for the Rhea County Courthouse, and Friday a statue was unveiled for Clarence Darrow.

A new round of federal grants is available for nonprofit groups and local governments looking to preserve historic sites.

The process will emphasize projects such as architectural and archaeological surveys, design guidelines for historic districts, and restoration of historic buildings that have a public use, according to the Tennessee Historical Commission.

"[The grants] help preserve our historic resources," said Claudette Stager, assistant director for federal programs at the Tennessee Historical Commission. "They can get funds from us for things they might not be able to afford."

The exact amount of the grants will not be known until after Congress passes the federal budget, but they are expected to be in the neighborhood of $250,000. The Tennessee Historical Commission is accepting applications for the grant, officially known as the 2017-2018 Historic Preservation Fund Grant, through Jan. 31.

The grants will reimburse up to 60 percent of the cost of the proposed project. The organization or government that receives the grant must provide the other 40 percent of the funding.

The only two local projects to apply last year both received the grants: Bledsoe County for surveying the county's historic resources and Rhea County for updates to the exterior of the courthouse. Rhea County used the money to put new mortar between the bricks as part of a larger overhaul of the courthouse.

"I'm very aggressive on grants," Rhea County Mayor George Thacker said. "Like Paul Ramsey said, I don't really like grants, but if my neighbors or other counties are going to get them, I'm going to get mine. Being aggressive is what I need to do."

The county also is using additional grant money to help change to more efficient lighting, redo the Scopes Trial Museum, replace the roof of the courthouse and more.

"This is going to help preserve the building for future generations," Rhea County archivist Jacob Ellis said. "This building has significance not just in Rhea County, but in the state and the nation because of the Scopes trial."

Mortimer, who provides assistance in the grant process for the 10 counties in southeast Tennessee, expects several local groups to apply this year. Faith Baptist Church in Jasper, the oldest standing church in the town, is going through the application process, and Mortimer has had conversations with the Signal Mountain Arts Community Center and others who have reached out about the grant.

The group is looking for two different project types, Mortimer said. One type is acquisition and development projects, such as brick and mortar work. Another would be survey and planning groups, such as nominations for the national register or groups wanting to have a consultant conduct a survey.

Applications are available at the state's website, tennessee.gov.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at Chattanooga OutdoorsTFP.

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