The Colonial Theatre, located at 48 E. Main St. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Colonial Theatre Board to operate as a public agency

BUCKHANNON – Although the City of Buckhannon is retaining ownership of the newly renovated Colonial Theatre, it’s handing the reins of day-to-day operations over to a soon-to-be-formed Colonial Theatre Board.

That board is expected to act as a public agency.

At its meeting Thursday, Buckhannon City Council approved a memorandum of understanding between itself, ART 26201 and Buckhannon Community Theatre – entities that have collaborated in the theater’s restoration. The MOU outlines how the Colonial Theatre, located at 48 E. Main St., will operate and be governed.

City attorney Tom O’Neill detailed the MOU, which he had briefed council on at a prior meeting in January.

“The purpose of this is to establish framework by which Colonial Theatre will be governed,” O’Neill said. “In short, it will be governed by a volunteer board of five individuals all appointed by city council, all serving at will and pleasure of the city council.”

According to the MOU, all five board members must be Upshur County residents, three of whom should be active in the Buckhannon-Upshur arts community.

As volunteers, board members won’t be compensated. Their primary duty will be to manage the daily operations of the theatre, but the City of Buckhannon is retaining ultimate ownership and maintenance of the theatre. To that end, the city must approve all expenditures, including decisions to hire any part-time or full-time staff.

According to the memorandum, city council will select the board members within 30 days of Feb. 4, and although organizations and council members may make nominations, council as a whole will appoint members.

Mayor Robbie Skinner clarified that Thursday’s vote wasn’t a vote on any specific board nominations.

“This does not set the actual individuals who will serve on the board in this memorandum,” Skinner said. “We’re not there yet. We will do that within 30 days following passage of this. This is just a creation of said board and laying out the guidelines.”

The MOU also says the Colonial Theatre, which the city purchase in 2017 will be “owned and operated for the artistic, educational, and cultural benefit of the Buckhannon Upshur community,” specifying the theatre will function as a public agency.

Councilman David Thomas asked why the Upshur County Arts Alliance hadn’t been included as a signatory in the MOU, and Skinner and city recorder Randy Sanders said signatories only included entities that had been involved in the redevelopment of the theatre.

“I think that they should be considered in the future if you want to cast a wider net,” Thomas remarked.

Councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to approve the MOU, which was seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh. All members of council with the exception of Thomas voted in favor of it. Thomas abstained, and councilman Jack Reger was absent due to illness.

The theatre is expected to become a self-sufficient entity within 12-18 months of its grand opening, and in related news, council approved a budget revision at Thursday’s meeting that moved $30,000 from the city’s general fund miscellaneous account to the arts and culture line item.

Prior to the vote, city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins explained.

“We did not get a grant for the theatre for from West Virginia Division of Culture and History this year … because we got one last year, and we’ve got some work that needs finished in the basement. This would set us up nicely for next year’s final completion of the theatre,” she said. “We have [$30,000] still yet in miscellaneous revenue that I could move over to theater capital so we could finish the plumbing in the basement. It’s a big step in the process from what I’m understanding.”

Sanders, the city recorder, made a motion to approve the budget revision, which was seconded by Rylands prior to passing unanimously.

City officials expect to finish the renovation of the theatre by 2023, and have already sent a letter to the W.Va. Department of Arts, Culture and History stating their intent to apply for a fiscal year 2022 Cultural Facilities and Capitol Resources program grant for the final phase of the renovations to the theatre. The letter of intent states that the city is likely to request $50,000.

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