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Augusta arts groups request SPLOST funds for venues, cultural projects

Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 5:36 PM
Last updated Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 9:43 AM
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The Imperial Theatre located on Broad Street in downtown Augusta is requesting $6 million of the special purpose local option sales tax to complete venue renovations.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
The Imperial Theatre located on Broad Street in downtown Augusta is requesting $6 million of the special purpose local option sales tax to complete venue renovations.

Renovating historic theaters, planning for new performing arts venues and infusing the city with sculptures and murals are among requests for money from the next phase of the special purpose local option sales tax. Several nonprofit agencies want a share of the tax collections, which they say would benefit the city’s rise as a mecca for the arts.

The requests will have to pass a vetting of the Augusta Commission before going to taxpayers for a vote. Commissioners are narrowing a $721 million project wish list to $200 million for the sales tax package that the city has depended on since 1988 to finance capital projects.

Agencies outside the city government, Hephzibah or Blythe that are requesting SPLOST 7 dollars for the arts include:

• Imperial Theatre: $6 million to complete renovations to the historic Broad Street venue

• Symphony Orchestra Augusta: $12.9 million for Miller Theater renovations and a new music institute

• Paine College: $8 million for the new James Brown Community and Fine Arts Cultural Center

• Augusta Mini Theatre: $1.8 million for a 250-seat theater

• Greater Augusta Arts Council: more than $14 million for public arts such as sculptures and murals at city gateways, bus hubs and parks, $2 million for affordable living space for artists and $32,000 for a public arts master plan

Brenda Durant, executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, said the city has spent years building a new judicial center, sheriff’s administration building and other much-needed facilities. In addition to the Miller and Imperial renovations, the city needs a new performing arts center on the river to replace the Bell Auditorium, she said.

“It is time we sat in a state-of-the-art theater. Arts have been on the back burner,” Durant said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson, a vocal proponent of a performing arts center on the river, did not respond to multiple voicemails left on his cell phone. Neither did Matt Kwatinetz, the director of Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s Augusta Regional Collaboration Project, who has been studying a downtown arts district.

Donna Williams, Augusta’s finance director, said SPLOST projects by nongovernmental agencies must meet guidelines that benefit the advancement of the community. In most cases, 25 percent matching funds are required before tax allocations are disbursed.

“It’s not just an outright gift,” she said.

Symphony Orchestra Augusta Executive Director Mieko di Sano said the 1,300-seat Miller Theater will complement the existing Imperial, creating a downtown theater district on the 700 block of Broad Street. The Miller and its attached music institute will host events for more than just the symphony.

The current SPLOST phase allocated $5.1 million to the Miller and $1.25 million to the Imperial. More money would help complete the projects, leaders said.

“(SPLOST 7) would be the key to enable not only what we’d like to be able to do but what we need to be able to do,” said Imperial Theatre Executive Director Charles Scavullo.

The Imperial would use the tax dollars to replace the heating and air unit in the main seating area, expand the front of the house and create access to the second floor and basement, Scavullo said. Those additions are the last components of renovations that began in the early 1990s.

Brandon Brown, Paine College’s vice president of institutional advancement, said the college wants to be a part of growing Augusta’s cultural arts. The $8 million SPLOST request would go towards a 1,400-seat theater with a recording studio costing $14 million total.

“We should be a resource for the tax-paying citizens,” said Brown, adding that Paine returns money to the area economy. “It’s a sound investment when citizens reinvest in the community.”

Augusta Mini Theatre asked for the smallest SPLOST amount of the arts groups. Executive Director Tyrone Butler said $1.8 million would build a 250-seat theater where low-income arts students can learn stage techniques such as lighting, sound and backstage jobs.

Located on Deans Bridge Road, Augusta Mini Theatre was allocated $857,000 in SPLOST 6 but has not yet raised the required 25 percent matching funds.

“Of course, we want to get the present match out of the way before we get the other one,” Butler said.

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dichotomy
30393
Points
dichotomy 02/08/14 - 07:39 pm
17
1
Affordable living space for

Affordable living space for artists???? Murals????? NO NO NO NO NO

$12.9 million for the symphony?????

I'm sorry....if ANY of these are on the list I am a NO vote on SPLOST. We have REAL and ACTUAL problems and needs. These things are ALL small, special interest groups.

If the symphony needs money, they should raise it from the folks who go to the symphony.

If the artists need a place to live, THEY SHOULD TRY GETTING A REAL JOB or raise the price of their "product". I've seen many of their works. Not what I would consider art. And I think murals on bridges and buildings are tacky and gaudy. Why should I be forced to pay for them.

Somebody at Paine has been squandering/wasting/mismanaging/possibly stealing money down there for years and now they want TAXPAYER money for cultural arts. NO NO NO NO

I'm sorry folks but that is just a the way I see it. What SPLOST has created is PRIVATE organizations seeing a coming pile of money and every non-governmental fruitcake in town is trying to get their share for something that should be supported by the private sector. But there aren't enough people interested in it to support it. Then it's "hey, let's stick our hands into the taxpayer's pockets".

NONE OF THESE ARE SPLOST PROJECTS AS THE ORGINAL INTENT OF SPLOST. These are PRIVATE organizations doing PRIVATE projects for small interest groups.

Call you commissioners and tell them....ONLY PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS ON SPLOST OR NO DEAL.

Brad Owens
4098
Points
Brad Owens 02/08/14 - 09:07 pm
16
2
Augusta Mini Theatre; $1.8 million for a 250-seat theater..?!?!?

"Augusta Mini Theatre asked for the smallest SPLOST amount of the arts groups. Executive Director Tyrone Butler said $1.8 million would build a 250-seat theater where low-income arts students can learn stage techniques such as lighting, sound and backstage jobs.

Located on Deans Bridge Road, Augusta Mini Theatre was allocated $857,000 in SPLOST 6 but has not yet raised the required 25 percent matching funds.

“Of course, we want to get the present match out of the way before we get the other one,” Butler said."

--------break line----------

Can someone tell me why this guy has gotten one red SPLOST cent ever? What does he DO? What? Can someone tell me what this "organization" does? This guy has gotten all kinds of tax dollars over the years and he has produced a whole heaping pile of nothing for the public.

The very fact they have not raised the required monies to get the last give-away pile of our tax money shows they should NOT be considered under any circumstances.

Brad

LuvMyTown
1988
Points
LuvMyTown 02/08/14 - 10:09 pm
7
8
Would like to see Miller & Imperial Theater Repairs Completed

These theaters are the types of venues that attract businesses to our area.
Arts Council, Murals, artist housing, Paine college theater, Mini Theater...just say no.

Mary Frances Hendrix
76
Points
Mary Frances Hendrix 02/08/14 - 10:10 pm
3
10
Augusta Mini Theatre

In response to the Augusta Mini Theatre comment above -- "Can someone tell me what this "organization" does?" -- the Augusta Mini Theatre organization does put on several shows each year and has one running now -- http://chronicle.augusta.com/things-do/applause/2014-01-15/augusta-mini-....

You can read more coverage about the group by searching "Augusta Mini Theatre" on The Chronicle's Web site.

Or read this Applause story from January 2013 -- http://chronicle.augusta.com/life/people/2013-01-05/actors-got-their-sta....

Or see this Applause cover story from January 2012 -- http://chronicle.augusta.com/things-do/applause/2012-01-10/cast-pickin-m...

augusta citizen
8596
Points
augusta citizen 02/08/14 - 11:37 pm
15
1
Maybe puts on several shows a year.

But does not need taxpayer funds, if people want it they will pay for it.

Little Lamb
43812
Points
Little Lamb 02/08/14 - 11:52 pm
14
1
Opaqueness

In the current SPLOST, Symphony Orchestra Augusta was to be the recipient of $25 million dollars to renovate the Miller Theater to be their home venue, provided they could raise a token matching amount from private contributions. What happened? Could they raise no funds? Did they squander the funds?

Symphony Orchestra Augusta should not be on this list until taxpayers get an accounting of where the previous SPLOST dollars disappeared.

There is no transparency in Augusta government.

KSL
120958
Points
KSL 02/09/14 - 12:47 am
11
3
Pay for infrastructure

Pay for infrastructure first.

Pay for things all Richmond Countians can benefit from, not jusr the effete elite.

countyman
19068
Points
countyman 02/09/14 - 01:51 am
2
12
Mini Theatre

The Imperial and Miller theaters will definitely attract tourist and revenue.. The Augusta Mini theater helps change the lives of many unprivileged kids which is even more important..

The Augusta Mini Theater provides a great service for the disadvantaged kids living in South Augusta, East Augusta, and the inner city...

Do you want to offer young people the opportunity to do something positive or let them get involved with the criminal element?

http://augustaminitheatre.com/amt/

story1
791
Points
story1 02/09/14 - 02:06 am
9
1
Total MisUse of Tax Payer Money

Little Lamb is right. No transparency, everything is in a vacuum. I'm voting "No" if the mayor and commissioners add any outside agencies to the request for Splost money. Don't risk losing Splost by attempting to squeeze your favorite charity to the mix.

Junket103
435
Points
Junket103 02/09/14 - 03:33 am
10
0
Finish the Existing Projects

Each group wants their own palace, but doesn't want to pay for it. What should be done is maximize use of existing venues so that every weekend is booked. Finish the existing projects and if SPLOST is or was used to renovate a theater, they should offer a discount rental rate to approved arts groups to encourage use by the various groups.

If a group, such as the Mini Theater, is unable to raise funds to match already approved projects, they should be barred from requesting further support through SPLOST until they show the ability to be financially responsible.

SPLOST should only support government structures and not structures controlled or owned by private entities.

Riverman1
79153
Points
Riverman1 02/09/14 - 05:47 am
12
1
Splish-SPLOST Taking A Bath

It’s all about directing tens of millions of dollars to friends and relatives in groups that have no oversight. THIS is why being a Commissioner in Augusta, Georgia is such a powerful and coveted office. Movin' and a groovin', Splishin' and a splostin'.

myfather15
49317
Points
myfather15 02/09/14 - 06:19 am
9
2
coutyman

"unprivileged kids", "disadvantaged kids"??

You KNOW, when someone starts using the kids as props for their project, something is wrong with it!! Especially when it's THIS blatant!! Do you honest believe these venues are places the "kids" will go? I know when I was growing up, the friend I hung around with certainly didn't want to go to a preforming arts theatre!! We wanted to find an empty football or softball field!! We wanted to play sports, not watch ballet or Opera!!!

C'mon man!!

GnipGnop
11449
Points
GnipGnop 02/09/14 - 08:19 am
8
1
Myfather15

Don't use logic...it doesn't work on the usual posters that see throwing our tax dollars away as improvement....he has no skin in the game.

jwilliams
740
Points
jwilliams 02/09/14 - 08:26 am
6
0
Taken from this article,

Taken from this article, Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson, a vocal proponent of a performing arts center on the river, did not respond to multiple voicemails left on his cell phone. Wake up good people of Senate seat district 22, this is not an anomaly, this is the norm when it comes to Corey “Because I’m Great “Johnson (his words not mine). If he is not responding to phone calls and voicemails “NOW” what makes you think he will respond “IF” we let him get to the golden dome. I would be willing to bet that “The Great One” would walk through Hades to return the calls to his “FEW” major benefactors (and they don’t live in district 22) that are driving this issue.

nocnoc
38240
Points
nocnoc 02/09/14 - 08:34 am
8
1
Sorry can't support handing out Taxpayer $$$$

Our family enjoys the ART's, we enjoy music, dance and we have family members that even scrape out a honest living teaching Dance in Columbia Co.

ARC needs to get its priorities straight.
ARC has so much that needs fixing and straightening out, it is not something the TAXPAYERS should be involved in, for a long time to come.

Consider this
Given the attendance numbers and the fact these locations fail to generate enough revenue to keep the lights on without Taxpayer Assistance should speak for itself about the popularity and level of community interest or willingness to spend $$$$ to attend.

Such entertainment venues are better supported by Daddy Warbucks, Richie Rich family or Special ART Interest Groups. The ARC Taxpayers should not be the solution to Higher Cultural Art's. Especially given so many ARC voters have other tastes.

FOCUS
ARC needs to focus on repairing & maintaining what it has, focusing on supporting the up and coming South Side GBD, then
centralizing, its supposedly Consolidated Government to better
serve ALL ARC residents.

Above all we need to quit pumping Taxpayer $$$$$ into Downtown wasteful projects, when so much needs to addressed in the outside laying areas.

But if downtown does decide to infuse Taxpayer $$$$$$ into this,
I want to see Downtown equally fund the Red Neck Games at Lock-n-Dam and then support a Soul Music Festival at Paine, a Country Music Festival at Coyotes Nigh club and other equal entertaining venues.

corgimom
27455
Points
corgimom 02/09/14 - 08:41 am
2
7
Brad Owens, I personally know

Brad Owens, I personally know Tyrone "T-Bone" Butler.

He is a native Augustan. He and his wife wanted to start a performing arts organization for children in Augusta whose parents were too poor to afford the lessons that wealthy parents could provide for their children.

They started out literally with nothing, in a shabby, run-down building on 9th Street. Tyrone and his wife Judith lived on virtually nothing to get this started.

I can personally attest that they are honest, dedicated, hard-working people. They have done so much for Augusta's children.

Whenever I visited them, their place was full of children studying and working hard and improving themselves.

I have nothing but praise for them. They provide an important opportunity for poor children to develop talents in a safe, nurturing environment. Children of all races are welcome; the only requirement is desire and the ability to work hard.

Any money given to them stays in Augusta. They don't have a national board or have to pay dues to any organization.

They do nothing but good for Augusta. There has never been any scandal attached to them.

If you are looking for a honest charity to donate money to, that helps children, the Augusta Mini-Theatre is the way to go.

corgimom
27455
Points
corgimom 02/09/14 - 08:48 am
2
9
And myfather, I can

And myfather, I can personally attest that the Butlers are fine, decent, hard-working, honest Christian people.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what they do.

Not every child is interested in sports. Many children love to dance and sing and act and play musical instruments, what's wrong with that?

Too bad that your outlook on life is so distorted, that you would automatically think they would be doing something wrong.

corgimom
27455
Points
corgimom 02/09/14 - 08:50 am
2
9
Nobody bats an eye when a

Nobody bats an eye when a child from a middle-class or wealthy family wants to play an musical instrument, take dancing lessons, or singing lessons, or wants to act in a play.

But when poor children want to do that, people think there's something wrong?

InChristLove
22417
Points
InChristLove 02/09/14 - 08:57 am
9
0
corgi, in defense for

corgi, in defense for myfather15, I believe what he was stating is, not that something improper was going on, but that a majority of kids today are not interesting in going to see art performances or dance. No there's nothing wrong with kids wanting to participate but he was speaking about the viewers. Although, in my opinion, most kids aren't interesting in hitting the field for a game of ball either these days, most are satisfied with sitting on the couch, playing video games or watching tv while texting their friends.

GnipGnop
11449
Points
GnipGnop 02/09/14 - 08:57 am
9
1
Nobody thinks its wrong

We just think we are tired of paying for everyone's whims...I am sure the Butlers are great people but the citizens of ARC have been taxed enough. No private entities should get SPLOST money. That is not what it was intended for.

corgimom
27455
Points
corgimom 02/09/14 - 09:00 am
1
8
But a little more background

But a little more background on Tyrone-

He grew up in Gilbert Manor and went to Ursula Collins Elementary and graduated from Josey, where he was a star player on the football team. While at Collins, his principal steered him towards acting to help him overcome a stutter. After graduating from Josey, he went to Albany State and graduated from there in 1971.

Tyrone is the personification of someone who made a success of himself from nothing, who pulled himself out of public housing and is now giving back to his community.

And people want to cast aspersions on him, when they don't even know him?

corgimom
27455
Points
corgimom 02/09/14 - 09:04 am
3
9
Do you want to pay for the

Do you want to pay for the Mini-Theatre, or do you want to pay to incarcerate kids?

Kids that are involved with something, that care about something, that have something to lose- those are the ones that keep themselves out of trouble and that stay in school. Those are the ones that go on to college. Those are the ones that get off of welfare and become productive.

Little Lamb
43812
Points
Little Lamb 02/09/14 - 09:50 am
9
2
Incarcerate

I want to pay to incarcerate kids when those kids have done something bad enough wrong to deserve incarceration.

I do not want to spend tax dollars on Augusta Mini-Theater.

Brad Owens
4098
Points
Brad Owens 02/09/14 - 10:00 am
10
0
corgimom...

I state again, what does he DO for a living? I mean his real full time job not this labor of love? Do they pay themselves a salary from all of this "charity" work?

I appreciate that you know them and they are "fine" folks but they have received millions from SPLOST over the past 20 years.

I have no problem with folks having a vision and making it happen, I do have a problem when folks have a vision and expect everyone else to pay for it.

And your argument that we either pay Tyrone to run this or we pay for jail later is a pretty harsh indictment of the kids he supposedly works with. I guess you all consider "urban" and "underprivileged" kids as all potential criminals huh?

WOW, what a look into your mindset; tell me now whose outlook on life is so distorted.

His personal success story seems to stop at the public trough, or maybe that is where it really began?

Again, why should we even consider giving him $1.8 million to build something that will ONLY benefit his small organization that cannot raise matching funds for the SPLOST he has already gotten? Also, you mean to tell me there is NO place in town where he can use the existing equipment to train folks? Maybe he can't make money off of it that way.

I will say that about ALL of the organizations with their hand out. If you cannot raise the matching funds what does that tell you about the arts in Augusta? Is that indicative of the level of support these taxpayer funded "community" projects will have once our millions are invested?

How about we take care of all the needs before we spend millions on people's "dreams" for a change.

Brad

Brad Owens
4098
Points
Brad Owens 02/09/14 - 10:04 am
3
0
seenitB4
81048
Points
seenitB4 02/09/14 - 10:14 am
7
0
Somewhat understand corgi BUT

When some drive out their driveway & hit a huge pothole....when the crime in their neighborhood has exploded...when the highways are a death trap (Mike Padgett Hy)etc etc....it is kinda hard to wrap your mind around mini anything..

I do get the concept of keeping the mind busy ....esp with children/teens...but again, where are the parents? Please remember we came up without the extras in life......I didn't even know what a sit down nice restaurant was til my later teens.....the needs of the community have to come first.

justthefacts
20255
Points
justthefacts 02/09/14 - 10:31 am
6
0
"I didn't even know what a sit down nice restaurant was"

Seenit, you don't remember the sit down counter at Barney's Pharmacy??

Brad Owens
4098
Points
Brad Owens 02/09/14 - 10:44 am
7
0
countyman...

You parroted what corgimom said;

"Do you want to offer young people the opportunity to do something positive or let them get involved with the criminal element?"

That is the only choices? Either way you all expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab?

What we have here is a fundamental disagreement on the role of the giverment in the lives of its citizens. I cannot see how this is the only two choices we have, in fact, it seems to me that a lot of working class folks end up just fine without going to jail or having to be coddled.

Ya'lls attitude and view of the working class is pathetic. We are not all a bunch of criminals or thugs and we don't need folks trying to "help" us when the NEEDS of the community are being ignored so folks can live their dream.

I support the arts with my own money I earn.

The Arts Council is the only organization I know of that gives a REAL return on the tax monies invested. The rest need to find their own way.

Brad

seenitB4
81048
Points
seenitB4 02/09/14 - 10:46 am
3
0
sit down counter at Barney's Pharmacy??

I do & loved it.....the best banana splits & nice company....Hy 25 & in walking distance to our house.....so many times I walked that road to get bread & cigs for my mom...who knows...I might have bumped into you there & didn't know ya.

justthefacts
20255
Points
justthefacts 02/09/14 - 10:46 am
7
1
Maybe

Augusta may have a found the voice of common sense with Brad around.

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