Photo by Joe Chitwood
Applicants Sara Morris and Stuart Shepherd
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Pat Keenan, at left, of the citizen's committee speaks as Brock Wurl and Glen Peterson listen.
Photo by Joe Chitwood
From left, Gary Person, Megan McGown, David Fudge, Kim Steger and Bob Phares discuss the request
After a 45-minute meeting with representatives from the North Platte Community Playhouse Monday, the citizens committee of the Quality Growth Fund voted 6-0 to table a request for a $25,000 grant and a $25,000 loan for renovations of the old Fox Theater.The meeting was to discuss the application to use the North Platte Quality Growth (LB 840) Fund.
After discussion, the committee noted the project does not fulfill a key purpose of the incentive fund -- to help bring jobs to the area.
Before the discussion, Community Playhouse President Sara Morris and Treasurer Stu Shepherd outlined the reasons for the request.
“I think all of you received a copy of our plan that shows where we are at the moment,” Morris said. “And, this request is just a part of an enlarged plan called ‘the show must go on,’” she said.
“You will notice that we have taken a 1929 building, built at the same time, I might add, as the Pawnee Hotel was built, and (we have) managed to maintain a functioning entity and keep the property presentable and usable.”
She said in 2016, the playhouse board of directors realized the building needed major updates and repairs.
“Let’s face it, it is a 100-year-old building,” she said.
After studying the needs, the board said the project would take around $550,000 to complete. They have raised around $220,000.
“With those funds, we have already redone the lobby and it is beautiful,” Morris said.
“Now, we have reached the point where we need the community’s buy-in to this,” she said. “We have 30,000 plus people go through our doors every year. That is a lot of people coming into our community -- buying materials, staying, eating lunch and all kinds of things. That brings an economic boon to the community.”
North Platte Community Development President Gary Person asked how they planned to use the grant funds.
Morris said it would be for structural repair.
“We can’t make anything done in there very safe, until we get the structures repaired. We are looking at tuckpointing,” she said. “I didn’t know what that was when we started this, but it is the masonry on the outside. The grout between the bricks is beginning to disintegrate and break, causing seepage on the inside walls.”
Shepherd said water seepage has been bleeding on the artwork on inside walls.
The big Fox Theater sign also needs repairs.
“We are counting on your help to continue this project,” Morris said.
The Quality Growth committee members voiced their concerns.
“I am just kind of struggling to figure out if what you are asking for fits under Quality Growth,” Committee Member Kim Steger said.
In reply, Morris said the playhouse indirectly affects the job market because businesses hire help to serve visitors that come to attend events.
“I think under quality growth, you are trying to make downtown a viable, wonderful place for people to come and we (Neville Center) are your anchor building downtown,” she said.
“Certainly, it is a worthy project,” committeeman David Fudge said. “It would fit right into a renovation grant, but that is not what quality growth funds are for. If we start granting historical renovation projects, we will be opening up a whole other can of worms. I think we need to be really careful about that.”
Committee member Brock Wurl agreed.
“I don’t want this to come off as disrespectful to your plan, because I think it is a good thing,” Wurl added
The Chamber Vice President of Economic Development, Megan McGown, said the playhouse should wait and reapply for a new renovation block grant. She said that is in the works and might be available before the end of the year.
“That would be best for you if we get funded for those,” McGown said.
“It would be smoother and cleaner to put it into a renovation project, and then we can go back to looking at those things that have direct job-related results,” committeeman Pat Keenan said.
“I get it, but I really have some heartburn having to massage it to fit our program, when I think we will have something in the near future where we won’t have to do that,” Fudge said.
They agreed to table the request until other possible programs could be analyzed.
Morris said the biggest disappointment was “they are ready to go now” with their renovation.
Person thanked everyone for their input.