HOUSE APPROVES SIX MONTH EXTENSION OF FEDERAL FUNDING ELIGIBILITY TO RENOVATE EDISON MEMORIAL TOWER
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) that gives the Edison Memorial Tower Corporation an additional six months of eligibility to receive federal matching funds to renovate the Edison Memorial Tower in Edison. The legislation was cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). The legislation was unanimously approved by voice vote.
The House approved a similar bill in November, but the final legislation was stalled in the Senate and did not pass before the 109th Congress officially adjourned in December. Pallone is hopeful that the Senate will now pass the bill so that it can go to the president's desk for his signature.
The Edison Memorial Tower is a 131-foot tower built in 1937 as a memorial to Thomas Edison. It was built on the exact spot where the original Menlo Park laboratory was located and is connected to a museum displaying many of the inventor's creations. The tower has suffered water damage and is in need of an estimated $3 to $4 million worth of repairs, which would be overseen by the Edison Memorial Tower Corporation, a local group of residents who manage the tower.
"Thomas Edison's contributions to our society are too numerous to count, but by developing the modern light bulb he is one of America's most recognized thinkers and inventors," Pallone said on the House floor this afternoon. "The Memorial Tower helps celebrate his achievements and salutes the spirit of innovation that he fostered. We need to pass this to ensure that the Memorial Tower can be repaired and serve not only as a memorial to a great man but also as a symbol of America's potential for technological innovation and achievement."
The Edison Memorial Tower is eligible for federal matching funds through the Thomas Alva Edison Commemorative Coin Act, which was signed into law in October 1998. The Act required the minting of coins to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Thomas Edison's invention of the light bulb, and required that the first $5 million of surcharges received from the sale of the coins to be distributed to eight nonprofit entities, including the Edison Memorial Tower. Surcharges would be distributed as matching funds to money raised through the private sector.
The coins were minted and sold in 2004, but, under the Act, the surcharges had to be distributed by December 31, 2006. After reading a document published by the U.S. Mint, the Corporation thought they could use the $350,000 in state funds to qualify for the match. Unfortunately, they were recently informed by the Mint that they could only use funds raised from private sources.
The Corporation has raised $70,000 in private funding, but was not able to raise the full $379,000 by the deadline last month, making Pallone's legislation critical to moving forward with the renovation. Nancy Zerbe, chair of the Edison Memorial Tower Corporation, believes they can raise the necessary private funds within the next six months.
"This extension is vital for allowing our Board the opportunity to raise the necessary funds for the restoration of the Edison Memorial Tower, one of New Jersey's most significant historic resources," Zerbe said.