WILMINGTON — Concerns by a commissioner about the length of a proposed loan to the Murphy Theatre led to a new offer Monday that includes financial backing for the loan from a private donor.
By the end of Monday’s appointment between the Murphy Theatre board and county commissioners, it appeared a commissioners’ vote on a contract is imminent, perhaps Wednesday when they next meet.
The proposal previously on the table was for a 20-year loan with $15,000 due annually as basic terms to repay a $300,000 no-interest loan from the county.
But Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said that after a lot more thinking, she was not comfortable with a 20-year duration, though she could agree to a five- or 10-year repayment period.
“Twenty years is a long time. There’s a lot of change that can happen, with your board and our board [of commissioners],” Woods told Murphy Theatre Board of Trustees President David Wagenseller and theatre Treasurer Paul Fear.
Wagenseller responded that while the theatre board was comfortable with the financial responsibility of $15,000 annually, his stance on having $30,000 due annually is that it “really puts a strain on the Murphy.” He added that the theatre board had made good plans to be able to pay back the loan.
Woods said she had “struggled” over the question. She added that another consideration is she doesn’t think the county’s government should be a financial institution like a bank “where we’re loaning money to different types of organizations; it’s only a matter of time until the next person comes through the door and wants a loan for money.”
Woods said she has to have a mindset where she “really, truly believes” the loan will get repaid, and “20 years is too far out for me.”
But providing the added security to the loan via a private donor’s guarantee, makes for a “whole new situation,” Woods said Monday.
Fear, who is not only the Murphy Theatre treasurer but also the treasurer for the City of Wilmington, gave a counterpoint to Woods’ statement that she doesn’t think the county government should be a financial institution. He said when he attends state-level continuing education events for local government treasurers, the event hosts continue to encourage joint community partnerships between governments and not-for-profit groups.
Fear said the theatre has received grant or loan funds from the State of Ohio and from the City of Wilmington, and now the theatre is looking for participation from the county, too.
During the discussion Monday, Clinton County Commissioners President Patrick Haley reiterated his support to have the county offer financial support toward the theatre’s seating project, for which the proposed loan is for. All seats in the 100-year-old theatre would be replaced.
After saying the performing arts community theater serves the population of the entire county and calling it a gem of the community, Haley pointed to Hillsboro losing its theater and alluded to vacant theaters in other small towns.
“I feel this is a good, sound project,” Haley said of the Murphy Theatre’s goal of new seating.
Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said he wants to see the project move forward. After the meeting, he said the community is “so blessed” to have individuals who can provide engagement and the type of financial backing for the loan as is proposed.
The financial backer asked to be anonymous for this News Journal report.
County apprised of proposed
rehab project in Blanchester
Friendship Acres, 901 Cherry St. in Blanchester, is a proposed rehabilitation of an existing senior housing community. Plans call for it to consist of 64 one-bedroom residential rental units located in one building.
The target population will be senior residents, 55 or older, with incomes at or below 30 percent, 50 percent and 60 percent of area median income.
The proposed development would be financed in part with 9 percent low-income housing tax credit proceeds. The planned developer and also the proposed property manager is Episcopal Retirement Services Affordable Living LLC.
Art & Soul Festival returning
Commissioners approved a permit for the use of Courthouse Square on June 23 for the second Art & Soul Festival. The applicant is Main Street Wilmington.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.