Turnage seeks funds

Published 1:01 am Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Theater’s future may depend on financial support from city

Washington’s City Council heard two requests for city financial assistance Monday night – one request by the Turnage Theaters Foundation and the other by the Washington Harbor District Alliance.

Charles Smith, president of the foundation’s board of directors, and Bob Schultz, the foundation’s treasurer, made the foundation’s case for funding from the city to the council. Although they didn’t ask for a specific amount of funding, they did ask for the city to continue its financial support of the foundation and for city assistance with the Turnage Theater’s utilities bill.

The city has been providing $100,000 a year for five years to the foundation, but that commitment ends this fiscal year, according to Matt Rauschenbach, the city’s assistant manager and chief financial officer.

Schultz said the foundation is trying to pay off a $3 million mortgage.

“We still have a considerable piece left,” he said.

Councilman Doug Mercer asked how much was left to pay on the mortgage. Schultz said that amount is $970,000.

Smith called the Turnage Theater a “vibrant theater” that enhances the city. If the theater closed its doors, that would be a blow to Washington and surrounding areas, he said. He said the theater has a role to play in enhancing Washington’s future.

“But right now, we have something that is pretty rare, and almost unique, in this part of our state,” Smith said. “And that’s a theater that’s been beautifully restored and has a wonderful and proud history.”

Schultz minced no words in describing the foundation’s finances.

“Ever since the theater opened its doors, it’s been struggling financially,” he said.

During his explanation of the foundation’s financial picture, Schultz said the “future of the Turnage remains in question.”

Schultz said the foundation is seeking grants from other foundations and sources that may have funding available for entities such as the Turnage Theater. As for the $100,000 the city provided in each of the past four fiscal years and the current fiscal year, the foundation “doesn’t expect that,” Schultz said.

Schultz said the foundation’s expenses associated with running the theater are more than its revenues. The foundation is working to address a pressing “deficiency” of about $78,000, he said. As part of that effort, the foundation has launched a second fundraising campaign, he said.

“To date, we’re raised about $50,000 of that $78,000, principally from our patrons and a couple of corporate sponsors,” Schultz said.

The foundation would be grateful for any help the city could provide, Smith said. Smith said “helping with utilities would be amazingly helpful,” adding that the city of Wilson provides such assistance for that city’s restored downtown theater.

The council made no commitment to the foundation, other than to say its request will be discussed during the council’s upcoming work sessions on the proposed 2011-2012 budget for the city.

For more coverage of the council’s meeting, including the WHDA request for city dollars, see a future edition of the Washington Daily News.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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