BUCKHANNON – The Consolidated Public Board started the discussion about a use policy for the marquees at the historic Colonial Theatre and Stockert Youth & Community Center.
At Thursday’s Consolidated Public Works Board Meeting, Mayor David McCauley said he did not anticipate taking action on a policy for the marquees – i.e. what types of messages the marquees would display and who would have control over the messaging – at that meeting.
However, he wanted to urge board members to begin contemplating the issue.
“We have one that we’ve operated for the last 15 years at the Stockert Youth & Community Center, and now we have a new one at the Colonial Theater,” McCauley said. “I would tell you that Art 26201 and Buckhannon Community Theater did a drive to raise $5,000 selling letters at $25 a pop and I bought eight letters, and other folks probably at this table bought letters as well. So, we don’t own the letters. But we own the theater and we own the marquee and some questions have arisen about our need to be very clear about the city’s entitlement to screen message requests.”
The mayor said he thinks the board should be able to use the marquee to promote events all around the city – not solely theater productions – such as Strawberry Festival and the recent birthday of Jimmy Pankow, trombonist with the band Chicago.
“If Buckhannon Community Theatre was doing ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ in the Opera House, even though it might not be in the Colonial Theatre, I think that’s something that we ought to be able to promote on our marquee,” McCauley said. “I don’t think we want to get into political endorsements or messages or religious messages or endorsements.”
“But if it’s a philanthropic kind of a thing that’s going on in our community, they ought to be able to submit a request and have this board, until such time as there may be a theater board to receive such things, [to review the request],” McCauley added. “I think we ought to consider a policy that would allow us to do those things.”
McCauley said there have been no issues with the marquee at the Stockert Youth & Community Center, but he wants to instruct city attorney Tom O’Neill work on the language in a draft of a proposed policy. He said he wants to put the matter back on the Consolidated Board agenda for the September meeting. At that meeting, the board could possibly take action, the mayor said.
Board member CJ Rylands pointed out that normally a marquee is used to advertise an event going on in the theater.
“Historically, marquees were at theaters, and whatever was on the marquee was going on in the building,” Rylands said.
McCauley responded by saying any events coming up in the theater in the coming week or two should be displayed on the marquee. However, when performances aren’t on the horizon, he said he believes other arts and community events should be promoted via the marquee.
“When we don’t have anything going on in the theater for two or three months and we have another arts event that’s occurring 440 feet away or in Jawbone Park, I think we ought to be able to tout the Jimmy Pankow birthday party, which was a huge arts event for our community,” McCauley said.
Rylands said he was concerned about the unintended consequences of opening up the marquee to other messaging.
“I’m just concerned about the issues with other folks that have other opinions and the unintended consequences of it and whether it benefits the community to the degree that it could undermine other relationships,” Rylands said.
McCauley repeated they were not taking action on the issue at this meeting.
“We’re not taking any action today,” McCauley said. “We’re just asking Tom to come up with something that will make us non-arbitrary, non-capricious and it would apply to both marquees.”
Rylands said he was open to having that discussion.