Hurricane council debates arts agreement, Chamber of Commerce funding

HURRICANE – Two agenda items took over an hour and a half to discuss at Thursday night’s Hurricane City Council meeting, whether to enter a formal agreement with a performing arts organization wanting to move to down and whether and how to give money to the Hurricane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Performing arts partnership

Boni Alduenda, from ARTS High School, which wants to relocate to Hurricane, made a presentation urging a formal agreement be made between the city and her organization to rent rooms in the community center and the auditorium in the Fine Arts Building when needed; this was a continuation of a tabled agenda item from the Feb. 6 council meeting. The item sparked a long discussion with many individuals weighing in.

The first major concern about a formal agreement between the two entities was it would, per state fire marshal regulations, require the city to install a sprinkler system in the Fine Arts Building, which would cost approximately $60,000, Hurricane City Fire Chief Tom Kulmann said. Alduenda said her organization would help raise money to defray the cost of such an upgrade.

Another of the council’s concerns was that if the agreement goes south, the city could be on the hook for liability issues and excess expenses, City Attorney Fay Reber said. Councilman Darin Thomas brought up an example of a previous agreement the city entered into that went sour, expressing his reluctance.

Alduenda countered by saying that the city’s part of the agreement would not incur expenses and would just include use of the facilities. She said her organization has no expectation that the city would be liable for anything.

Several council members expressed their fear that such an agreement could hurt the city’s own fine arts programs, including its two major annual theater productions it has worked so hard to develop. Its production of Les Misérables played to packed houses last November and Beauty and the Beast, which is currently running, is on the same scale, Recreation Director Bryce King said.

Alduenda reiterated that her organization does not want to take over the performing arts center or the city’s theater production company. It simply feels Hurricane has a lot of potential to be a “future arts center,” she said.

King said that if no contract is entered into, there will not be a need for a sprinkler system. He suggested that the two entities should move forward on a trial basis without a formal agreement to gain some trust in each other.

Alduenda said ARTS High School ‘s  plan is to get its own building, but that funding, especially by way of grants, will not come until the organization is established in a community.

Councilwoman Ethelyn Humphries said she was in favor of just renting rooms to ARTS High School and Councilman Kevin Tervort agreed, saying something else needed to be figured out. In the end, the council voted unanimously not to enter into a formal partnership with ARTS High School.

Chamber of Commerce Funding

Current Hurricane Valley Chamber of Commerce President Greg Aldred and past President Jeff Hunt presented to the council, asking the council for $5,000 in annual support, partly so the chamber can improve its website and provide its office manager more hours.

Tervort expressed his concern that for as long as he’s been a city councilman, he feels like the Chamber comes to city council meetings annually asking for money and is always granted the money for which it asks. However, Tervort said that from now on he feels like the Chamber needs to perform and show that it deserves the money the city is providing. He said the city is already doing a lot for the Chamber, including providing a rent-free office space in the community center.

Aldred said that part of the Chamber’s value comes in publishing a community guide, which he says is a winner. He also touted the fact that the Chamber now has over 100 members.

“We’ve got our doors open more,” he said.

Ethelyn Humphries said she’d like to see the Chamber send out its newsletters to all businesses in town, not just businesses that are members of the Chamber.

King said he felt the Chamber needs to have an event with its name attached to it and Ethelyn Humphries agreed. Aldred said in the past the Chamber has held a business expo, which didn’t happen last year, which he said was an embarrassment.

Aldred literally got down on his knees to plead for money.

The council decided, without a formal motion, to give the Chamber $2,500 and see how it performs, with the possibility of providing more in the future if needed and deserved.

“I’m just asking to have faith in me as your chair,” Aldred said, explaining that he hopes the Chamber will not need the city’s financial support in the near future.

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