SHAMOKIN - City officials have turned to the state's historic preservation commission for grant funding toward rehabilitating the "99 steps."

A $25,000 grant from Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is sought for masonry restoration work in the planned first phase of the project. The city has pledged $35,000 of its own funds toward technical specifications, project bidding and construction contract administration.

"Our goal is to restore the Lincoln Street stairway to safe everyday public use at the earliest possible date and in a manner that preserves the historic integrity of the structure," Steve Bartos, city clerk, wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to a grant administrator with the commission.

Bartos said Saturday he hoped the repairs could be done in two phases, with a maximum of three phases. It all depends, he said, on the availability of funding.

C&D Waterproofing Corp., Bloomsburg, had quoted in March 2012 the total project repair cost at $175,000. The firm worked on restoration projects at Berwick City Hall and Beaver Library, Danville, using Keystone Historic Preservation Funds from the commission.

The local landmark, believed to be built as a Works Progress Administration project, is in disrepair and was closed several years ago as a public safety hazard.

A grant application was submitted last year to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources seeking $500,000 for the creation of Shamokin's branch of a proposed regional walking trail. Some of the funding was proposed for use in rehabilitating the stone staircase. The application was rejected, with Bartos saying the majority of DCNR funding had been directed last year towards projects in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

As a result a new approach was had, keyed

solely on the historic staircase and seeking help from a commission focused on historical preservation.

Approximately $1.8 million in federal funding has been pledged and an additional $1 million pending for repairs of the Shamokin Creek channel. Additional federal funding is being pursued for the American Legion Building. Both pending projects were noted to the commission by the city as meshing well with the desired fix for the "99 steps," calling it a "demonstration of a new preservation ethic."

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is involved in the design process for the preservation portion of the creek channel project in the city's downtown area, aiming to rehabilitate the interlocking stone channel to its pre-damaged state.

The commission had previously identified a portion of the downtown, including the stone creek channel, as a potential site for the National Historic Register.

If Shamokin were named to the register, grant funding and tax credits would be made available to the city and property owners within the historic district for restoration projects. There are, however, restrictions on structural and aesthetic changes as a result of being listed on the register.

An application for the register was considered last year, but Bartos held off since he said other more immediate projects and issues took precedence. The process has begun again, he said, for an application to be submitted this year.