By Wendy Holdren
Members of the Beckley Common Council unanimously approved a funding request of $25,000 for Theatre West Virginia at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Gayle Bowling, general manager of TWV, spoke to Council about funding difficulties the theatre has faced over the last five years. She said in 2008, they received a 25 percent reduction in state funding and the reductions have only continued.
“Last year, we went out of business for two months. Some employees voluntarily took a 10 percent pay cut to keep the company going.”
Bowling explained that those pay cuts are still ongoing, and she even opted to take the pay cut herself to try and help keep the theatre alive.
“We reduced our administrative and production costs, but that’s a lot of money to make up. We’re not asking for a donation, but an investment.”
Mayor Emmett Pugh asked if the city committed to the $25,000 in funding, if the money could go toward productions at Grandview versus travel expenses; Bowling said that would not be a problem.
Pugh and Bowling also reviewed the losses due to the summer derecho; nine performances were canceled and an estimated $35,000 in revenue was lost. Bowling said the Boy Scouts coming to the area could potentially impact the theatre in a positive way, as two large groups have already booked performances.
“Do you see Theatre West Virginia becoming self-sufficient?” Pugh asked.
“We would love to, but in this economy, we can’t tell what will happen,” Bowling responded.
She said that each summer season, approximately 140 people are employed at TWV, mostly performers, and those wages add up to $500,000. She said none of them make a great deal of money, but that money is pumped back into the local economy.
Councilman-at-large Tim Berry said TWV is “a wonderful entity” and it is “vital” not only to Beckley, but to southern West Virginia. He also noted that funding for the tourism industry should not be cut, especially now.
Bowling noted there are approximately 30,000 visitors during their season from up to 46 states and up to 10 foreign countries.
Council unanimously approved the motion for $25,000. The theatre has already secured a check from the Raleigh County Commission for $25,000 as well.
The approval of the contract for the comprehensive plan was also unanimously approved Tuesday.
Councilwoman Ann Worley, who was head of the committee to seek contracts for the plan, gave Council an executive summary of the process. The committee received 13 plans, all of which were good, Worley said. The members divided the plans up for review, then they all gathered to review and rate the plans together.
Eventually the committee chose a company called Poggemeyer Design Group, which was the same company the City of Beckley selected for the comprehensive plan back in 2001.
“We believe they have new things to offer as well as a previous knowledge of Beckley,” Worley said.
Pugh said the contract is for $120,000 and will be a nine to 12 month process. He said Council hopes to secure planning grant funds and they have already secured some funds from the Beckley Sanitary Board.
Pugh noted the receipt of bids for the repair and/or replacement of several roofs at the Beckley Police Department and the Beckley Fire Department, as well as a bid for the purchase of a new multi-purpose response vehicle for the fire department.
Bids were received for the roofs from WG Contracting and Development, Foamcoat Roofing and Coating, Tri-State Roofing and Sheet Metal, and Boggs Roofing.
A bid was received from Pierce Manufacturing for $593,574 for the multi-purpose vehicle for the fire department.
First readings were held Tuesday for two zoning ordinances. One ordinance would re-zone 513 Cresent Road and two adjacent parcels from “R-1” One-Family District to “B-2” General Commercial District. Another ordinance would re-zone two adjacent parcels abutting City Avenue, Virginia Street, and Raleigh Avenue from “R-1” One-Family District to “B-1” Neighborhood-Highway Business District.
Second readings of both ordinances will be held at the first Council meeting next month, May 14.
Another first reading of an ordinance to sell City property at public auction was held. The second reading will be held at the next Council meeting, April 23. City attorney Bill File explained that miscellaneous tools and vehicles that were seized by forfeiture will be auctioned Saturday, May 18 at 9:30 a.m. at New River Park if the second reading of the ordinance is approved.
As for old business, Councilman Ron Booker asked Chief Code Enforcement Officer Bob Cannon to provide Council with an updated list of demolition sites.
Mayor Pugh also discussed the Beckley Intermodal Gateway walk-through; he said all the controls are completely installed.
During public comments, Mr. and Mrs. Snuffer, residents near the intersection of Orchard and Mankin Avenues, came to ask Council to allow them to grant access to their back alleyway, which was recently closed due to stormwater issues. Pugh said Council would look into the issue.
The next Council meeting will be April 23 at 7:30 p.m.
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