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St. Joseph's Hospital Board of Directors representative Don Nestor attended Buckhannon City Council's most recent meeting to announce a $50,000 donation to the Colonial Arts Center. / Photo by Katie Kuba

St. Joseph’s Hospital contributes $50K to Colonial Art Center renovation

BUCKHANNON – St. Joseph’s Hospital officials believe the Colonial Arts Center is an asset to Upshur County — one that could make it easier to attract top-notch physicians and other health care providers to north-central West Virginia.

That’s why at Buckhannon City Council’s most recent meeting, hospital officials announced a $50,000 donation to the renovation of the Colonial Arts Center, formerly the old Colonial Theatre. Don Nestor, a member of St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Board of Directors, and Lisa Wharton, vice president for public relations, marketing and Foundation, said the hospital would make a contribution to the CAC, which currently operates under the auspices of the city as a publicly funded entity.

“I’m here tonight to express our appreciation on behalf of St. Joseph’s Hospital because what you’re doing here with the Colonial Arts Center is not only improving things for the youth of our community and our older citizens, but it also makes it easier for us when we’re recruiting physicians and other health care providers here in the community,” Nestor said at council’s May 5 meeting. “They look beyond just the job; they look at the community. So, it’s my pleasure tonight to say we, as a board of directors of St. Joseph’s Hospital, are going to make a pledge of $50,000 in support for the Colonial Arts Center and our full commitment to work with the center and the community as we have for the future of Buckhannon and the arts here.”

“It’s such an extremely positive thing, and we’re all excited to see where it goes,” he added.

The hospital wasn’t the only entity that pledged to support the CAC that evening. West Virginia Wesleyan College interim president Dr. James Moore pledged to assist the CAC with its resources, materials and expertise of its faculty and staff members.

In other Colonial Arts Center-related news, city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins detailed how much money the city has expended on renovating the theater since 2017 – and asked for council’s approval of a budget revision reflecting some of those expenses.

“You’ve got a really good board; they want this to succeed,” Jenkins said. “We’re pioneering a path the city has not been down yet, and I think it’s going to be a true success, but with success, there’s money involved.”

Jenkins said council had approved purchasing the then-dilapidated theatre in 2017 for $60,000.

“It was not in good condition,” she noted.

Since then, revenue realized in the form of grants and donations amounted to $345,317, with $239,000 of that total in grants. The city has spent about $1.18 million on the project, Jenkins said.

“We were doing really well up through June of 2021,” she said, “but this year, we wanted our crews [Street Department employees] out there doing more streets and paving projects, that put [construction and renovation] work back on various contractors to come in and do that work. Up to 2021, we had expensed $724,230, but this year so far, we have expensed $326,883.”

Jenkins said city architect Bryson VanNostrand estimated that the city would need to spend another $130,400 by June 30 to ensure the CAC renovation was 85 to 90 percent complete.

“Our expenses to date are $1,181,513, so less the $345,317 (in grants and donations), the city has expensed $836,000 over a five-year period,” Jenkins said. “I do have a budget revision tonight that’ll have some of those funds in it from this year that I’ll need your approval on.”

City finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins details how much the City of Buckhannon has spent on the renovation of the Colonial Arts Center. / Photo by Katie Kuba

Mayor Robbie Skinner weighed in, saying that amounted to about $167,200 per year.

“That’s $167,200 per year over the past five years, so we have not spent $800,000 in one year,” he said. “And we can’t ignore the obvious – over the past year, the cost of materials has gone up and the availability of getting materials … well, the game has changed.”

Council unanimously approved a general fund budget revision of $386,239, which included a $235,700 increase in expenditures on the CAC renovation.

Councilman Dave Thomas said he was glad the city has sales tax revenue to cover the cost of the project, which was significantly more than city officials had anticipated.

“When we all agreed to that, and I’m still glad we did, we didn’t know it was going to cost as much as it is going to cost to refurbish it and renovate it and so forth, and I think when we take a look at some other purchases for the future, we need to try to look at it pro forma, early on, to see if we have made the right decision,” Thomas said. “I think many things are going to be looking good for us for the future because we have the sales tax and I’m really glad we have the sales tax today and this COVID reimbursement we’re getting for different things has really put the city in a good place financially, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever.”

“I don’t think any of us thought refurbishing the theatre was going to cost as much as it is going to cost, but we have the resources to do it, so that’s great and I appreciate the donations that people are making for that particular facility,” he added.

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