2006-08-31 / Front Page

Council redefines relationship with theatre group

By Sam Bari

At Monday's Town Council meeting, the council discussed the relationship between the Jamestown Community Theatre and the town recreation department because it has been treated as a separate entity with its own account, and not as part of the recreation department.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser recommended forming a recreation board to decide on the way recreation department activities and funds are administered. The councilors were receptive to the idea and instructed Keiser to submit a model such as the one used by South Kingstown when Keiser was its assistant town administrator. He said that the South Kingstown board worked very well because recreation funds and activities management can be complex and present controversial issues like that of the community theatre.

The idea was inspired by Councilman Michael Schnack's motion at the council meeting two weeks ago to make the theater issue an agenda item Monday's meeting to better define the relationship of the Jamestown Community Theatre with the recreation department. "Even though the theatre presently has $23,000 in their reserve fund and is self-supporting, the fund is maintained separately," Schnack said. "Why isn't the theatre treated just like any other recreational activity? I question whether it should be paying for time Recreation Director Matt Bolles contributes to their projects, and for the use of town facilities for their productions. They

are treated as if they're a separate enterprise with free access to town facilities and personnel."

Councilman Bill Kelly also questioned whether the theatre should have a 501-C3 status, making it an independent, nonprofit organization that would pay for use of town personnel and facilities.

Keiser said that the theatre has returned $36,000 in excess reserves to the town over the last 10 years that has been used for improvements to the Community

Center. He also said that the town does not charge other organizations like the chorus or anyone else for use of the facilities.

Schnack, Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski, and Kelly said that the theatre issue should be discussed and resolved in executive session. Schnack said that "performance issues are in question and it isn't fair to discuss the performance of a town employee at a public meeting."

The council voted 3-1 to approve the need for an executive session.

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