Havre de Grace Opera House

The Havre de Grace Opera House has been a focal point for performing arts and city life for Havre de Grace, on and off, since it was built in 1871. The city council said Monday is seeking additional state grants for an ambitious restoration of the historic building. (Aegis staff photo by Matt Button, Baltimore Sun Media Group / July 1, 2014)

Havre de Grace's Opera House renovation is on its way to getting another financial boost, as city council members also noted the recognition Havre de Grace has been getting lately.

The council passed a resolution Monday agreeing to apply for $200,000 in funding from the state's Department of Housing and Community Development toward the Opera House renovation project.

The resolution also asks for an additional $40,000 to create an interior fit-out program for Havre de Grace Main Street, as well as $40,000 for the facade improvement program in the downtown area.

Bill Watson, of Havre de Grace Main Street, urged the council during an earlier hearing to support the resolution. He also supported a budget amendment, approved Monday, that transfers $20,000 from the advertising budget of the economic development department to the tourism budget.

"When businesses are struggling, these two grants are significant ways for local businesses to improve their buildings, to improve their infrastructure in order to maintain a wonderful business district downtown," Watson said.

Councilman Steve Gamatoria, who proposed the budget transfer, explained the item was discussed at an earlier work session.

"That was an oversight at the budget amendments that we presented last meeting that has no impact on the overall budget other than a transfer of funds from one account to another," he explained.

Council members congratulated volunteers and city staff on another successful July 4 celebration and pointed out the many recent recognitions Havre de Grace has received.

Councilman Bill Martin and Councilman Fred Cullum said it is a good sign that the city was able to have two major events at the same time, citing the First Friday event held the same weekend as the Independence Day celebration.

"It showed everybody that we're ready for prime time and we're doing it," Martin said, adding that the city was the only one in Maryland to be recognized by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top small towns in America.

Cullum and Martin also mentioned two recent front-page stories in The Baltimore Sun about the city, on the same week as the July 4 events.

"You just couldn't ask for any better alignment of the stars for our city," Martin said.

Cullum called the two articles "really fantastic" and commended one about Mary Martin's postcard business.

"It brings recognition when we have a business like that," he said.

The Opera House renovation article, he continued, "was another good article and brought attention to our city once again. We are no longer forgotten and unknown. We are very well known in the state of Maryland now, for lots of reasons."