04/28/11 — Arts grant rides on city's decision

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Arts grant rides on city's decision

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 28, 2011 1:46 PM

The $200,000 grant the city received to bring the Arts Council of Wayne County downtown may hinge on another city decision: whether to buy the Arts Council's current building.

The city signed a provisional contract to buy the building Feb. 8 and is currently inspecting the structure as part of a 90-day examination period. A final decision doesn't have to be made until Aug. 1, but should the city opt out of the purchase, it will likely mean the Arts Council will opt out of its downtown move.

Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson said because the grant is reimbursement-based, there would be no penalty if the deal didn't go through, but added that the grant was valid for three years.

"They could give it back but it would be sad to see that happen," Arts Council Director Sarah Merritt said, noting that this opportunity would not likely present itself again. "This was money that was there and earmarked for this type of grant and we don't know if it will come back."

She affirmed that the Arts Council cannot proceed with its move until its building is sold.

"There has to be a final decision from the City Council," Mrs. Merritt said. "We're still waiting."

The council received a preliminary report at its last meeting from engineer Jerry Hodge, who the city hired to conduct the inspection. Hodge identified some structural quirks about the building that led to the cracking of second floor windows when the sun warmed them. The outer panes, which Mrs. Merritt said were installed in the 1980s, of many of the nearly 200 two-paned windows are cracked on the second floor. Hodge said the style of roof puts pressure on the glass, making them more susceptible to cracking.

A final report is expected at the next council meeting May 2.

Eleven first floor windows were replaced in 2006 and 2007 and two of those have cracked again, though one seems to have been the result of an accident, not thermal expansion cracking.

Mrs. Merritt said the Arts Council last year was faced with either renovating, including replacing the second floor windows, or finding a new location. She said that it was decided that the current facility is too big for the two-employee organization after six months of discussions and forums and then it was put on the market.

Now she says the Arts Council, one of the oldest in the state at 48 years, is on the cusp of a move that will allow it to focus more on outreach thanks to its downtown location.

"We're looking forward to a new chapter in our organization's history," she said.