Hartsville council hears of Center Theater needs

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpressonline.com

Hartsville City Council convened their first 2015 regular meeting on Jan. 13, and, before tackling the regular agenda, heard a presentation on pressing repair and upgrade needs at the Center Theater.

Kim Cranford, Center Theater manager, gave council a brief history of the building, noting that as
early as 1931, Charles Coker, Sr. envisioned a performing arts center, farmers market, and cinema for downtown Hartsville. Funds were tight during the Great Depression, but the dream endured and the Center Theater was eventually built in 1935 using WPA funds. Since then, the theater has hosted everything from beauty pageants to lavish musical theater productions, though Cranford said the lack of space in the wings and backstage limits the venue’s flexibility.

Center Theater operations are funded via a special purpose tax district that collects 2 mills per year. Cranford said the annual budget is about $180,000 per year, of which about $72,000 is salary and the remainder goes toward maintenance and office expenses. He explained that age and the elements have taken a toll on the building, and it would take just over $540,000 to make all necessary upgrades and repairs.

“That basically gets me up to code,” said Cranford.

Cranford said chief among those needs are a new roof and new restrooms with handicap accessibility. He said the theater is seeking help in the form of grants to help fund the repairs.

Further, he said that a push in recent years to overhaul the theater in the style of the Newberry Opera House would take from $5 to $7 million.

Council member Billy Shirley suggested selling naming rights for the building to a local sponsor in exchange for covering the cost of upgrades and repairs, a proposal Cranford had evidently not considered.

“Say Sonoco says, “We’d like to see it come up to code. We’ll give you half a million, and we want to call it the Sonoco Theater.” Can (you change) the name of it?” Shirley asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” replied Cranford.

On the regular agenda, council held first readings on two ordinances, both of which passed without objections.
Ordinance No. 4183 amends the municipal electric service agreement between the city and Duke Energy Progress to allow for shared expense of any potential “overhead to underground” power line relocations.

Ordinance No. 4184 transfers $108,000 from the water/sewer fund to the stormwater fund, covering the remainder of this year’s operations that were left unfunded when the city removed the stormwater fee in December of 2014.

Author: Jana Pye

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