By Karen Butterfield

Missourian Staff Writer

The Washington City Council Tuesday night approved a request by the Washington Historic Preservation Commission (WHPC) to seek grant funds for members to attend a national forum.

The National Alliance of Preservation Commissions Forum is held every other year, said Carolyn Witt, WHPC commissioner. The next forum will be held in Philadelphia, Pa., in July 2014.

Witt, who has participated in the national forum two other times, said it is a valuable learning tool. Witt has been to Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2010, and Norfolk, Va., in 2012.

“It’s formed of people who are involved in trying to keep historical downtown areas viable and alive and to keep the economy working,” she said. “You’re working with people who share the same goals and aspirations and problems as you do.”

The forum is the only national conference focused around the needs and issues of preservation commissions and commission staff, the forum website says.

It is supported by the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Action and the National Park Service.

If the grant funds are approved, six or seven representatives from the WHPC and Downtown Washington Inc. will attend the forum.

“We’re always looking for ideas to keep downtown alive,” she said, adding that she truly enjoys the educational aspect of the forum. “Education is never a waste. You learn something all the time.”

Downtown Washington Inc. is preparing the grant paperwork, Witt noted, adding that the two organizations work hand-in-hand.

If the application is approved, the city will provide the funds up front and be reimbursed with the grant funds.

The conference will feature educational sessions, discussion panels, mobile workshops and tours.

In the past, Witt said, tours have centered around communities that have received grant funding to preserve or encourage economic growth in historic districts, as well as other historical topics.

One discussion was over Midwest architecture and how to deal with historic structures in the Midwest, she said.

Witt said it’s interesting to learn how other communities’ programs work, as well as their rules and regulations.

“A lot of cities have much tighter rules than we do,” Witt said. “There are towns that say what color paint people can use (on structures in historic districts).”

Witt said that Washington is very fortunate to have such a vibrant, involved downtown where the city and other organizations like the WHPC and Downtown Washington Inc. all work together.

“We’re a united focus and you don’t find that often,” she said. “All of the things that we have in our downtown wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have a real team effort.”

Witt said the WHPC will likely know by the end of the year if the grant was approved.