Ashland eyeing funds to fix up iconic theater

Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm

At least one thing is clear in the town’s stance toward the Ashland Theater: it doesn’t want to be in show business. But the town does want to see the iconic, historic building put to good use as it focuses on revitalizing downtown Ashland.

With that in mind Tuesday night, Ashland Town Council agreed to dedicate $100,000 toward repairs to the circa-1948 structure, setting a public hearing in January on this and several other amendments to the current fiscal year spending plan.

According to Josh Farrar, deputy town manager and finance director for the town, the funds would be transferred from the general fund’s

Ashland Town Council will hold a public hearing in January on a proposed budget amendment that would fund repairs to the Ashland Theater.

Ashland Town Council will hold a public hearing in January on a proposed budget amendment that would fund repairs to the Ashland Theater.

unreserved fund balance into the town’s capital projects fund. Staff’s goal, however, is to spend as little as possible of the appropriation.

Repairs to the facility, donated to the town by Jean and A.D. Whittaker earlier this year, should help with the transition toward having the private sector operate the theater.

Town Manager Charles Hartgrove told town council that staff has been working to secure private sector partners who might be interested in running the theater, but there wasn’t anything eminent.

In a follow-up interview Wednesday, Hartgrove said the town has had a commercial building inspector on site to assess the building.

Hartgrove said he wanted to make sure there isn’t any continuing water damage in the building and that the roof is sound.

They’ve also completed a lead and asbestos study and are awaiting the results of an environmental study, which looked at things like underground infrastructure.

With the results of those three studies in hand, Hartgrove said the town will have a better picture going forward. But so far, Hartgrove said there haven’t been any real red flags, adding that he’s been surprised at the overall shape of the building compared to facilities of similar age in other jurisdictions.

The town has identified several “minor” repairs needed to preserve the building’s structural integrity. The appropriation will help pay a contractor to carry out those fixes, which Hartgrove said was “a good starting point,” adding that having a line item in the budget will help the town stay “ahead of the curve.”

While the $100,000 appropriation is over and above what’s needed in the short term, Hartgrove said the theater may require more significant investment in the future and he would be in regular communication with town council going forward.

The theater was included as a priority item in the town’s capital improvements program for the upcoming fiscal year, one of only a handful of new projects adopted Tuesday night. Actual funding for further facility repairs will come as the town prepares next year’s budget.

In addition to the appropriation toward the theater, town council was presented with several other proposed budget amendments Dec. 17. These consisted of grant funding for the police department, restoration of Mechumps Creek and stormwater initiatives. Another $325,000 of proffer money from Virginia Truck Center would pay for a turn lane and/or traffic signal at the intersection of Route 1 and Vitamin Shoppe Way. The town also hopes to reappropriate $167,456 of unspent capital funds from the previous fiscal year.

Town council will hold a public hearing on all $834,000 of budget amendments Jan. 21.



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