Council tables Turnage

Published 9:05 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2012

After emerging from a closed session in which it discussed the Turnage Theater, Washington’s City Council took no action related to that discussion.
The council went into closed session to discuss the possible purchase of the Turnage Theater by the city. Such a discussion behind closed doors is allowed by state law because discussion concerning the acquisition of property is an exemption to the state’s open-meetings law.
The Turnage Theater is set for pubic auction on the Beaufort County Courthouse steps at 2 p.m. Nov. 5.
Before the council went into closed session, three people addressed the council about the fate of the Turnage Theater.
Scott Campbell, a city resident and real-estate broker, asked the city to consider purchasing the Turnage Theater.
“I came tonight to urge council in their closed session to give hard consideration, thoughtful consideration, to the importance of the Turnage Theater to the community as a whole,” Campbell said. “With that in mind, to consider purchasing the facility and keeping it within the public domain.”
Campbell added: “I think the past problems in the business plan, though obviously something to be concerned about, are things that can be worked through with a new model, but only if the city owns the property.”
If another entity acquires the Turnage Theater, there’s the risk  “we lose it as the great public asset that it is for this community,” Campbell said.
Bob Henkel, owner of Inner Banks Artisans’ Center in downtown Washington, wants the Turnage Theater to reopen its doors because it’s an important part of downtown’s economy.
“We need the Turnage Theater. We need it as a draw for people from Greenville, New Bern. That’s our clientele downtown. It’s not Washingtonites we’re trying draw downtown. It’s outside the city,” Henkel said. “What the Turnage does is bring those people down. It also brings a reputation for the arts, which are very much trying to expand.”
Henkel said the fate of the Turnage Theater does not have to rest solely with the city buying it. He wants the community and surrounding areas to get behind the effort to reopen the theater, with an eye to it serving more segments in the community.
“I can tell you since the Turnage closed (December 2011), my sales are down 20 percent,” Henkel told the council.
“There’s tremendous economic value to the city to have (the theater) open,” he said.
Trent Tetterton, part of the Washington Harbor District Alliance’s economic-development branch, said that some people moved to Washington in recent years, in part, because the Turnage Theater was operating. The presence of the theater was a factor in him moving to Washington five years ago, Tetterton said.
Tetterton said if the Turnage Theater does reopen it must appeal to a more-diverse population than before for it to survive.
Tetterton said a reopened Turnage Theater would be an economic stimulus for the city.
“It brings tourists to Washington. It gives people another reason to come to Washington rather than the waterfront,” he said.
“So, I am absolutely in favor of the city doing whatever the city can do to help to save the Turnage, to raise the phoenix from the ashes, to get it back serving the community,” Tetterton said.

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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