2006-09-14 / Letters to the Editor

Theatre supporters react to town concerns

This letter was sent to the Town Council and copied to the Press:

It was with interest, and as a board member of the Jamestown Community Theatre (JCT), that I attended the council meeting on Aug. 28th.

As Mr. Keiser alluded to in the meeting, while the structure of JCT under the town's umbrella is not common, neither is it particularly unusual. And yet what a tempest in a teapot it has become. All of a sudden, after many, many years of success and cooperative effort, someone's knickers are certainly in a twist!

There was considerable misinformation stated for public and press consumption at the Aug. 28 meeting. JCT does not monopolize the Community Center. It stages two performances per year (at most), specifically scheduled to not conflict with other "rec" programs. And I will point out here that while participation in these productions can range anywhere from 40150 individuals, spectators come out in droves to attend the performances - a true, beloved, community activity.

It was also stated at the council meeting that other

recreation programs roll their remaining account funds at the end of the year into the town's general fund. That is not true.

Further, Mr. Schnack stated: "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 the town facilities for their productions." First, Mr. Bolles is the town's representative on the JCT board. We are a working board and require board members to participate in some way in productions. That would seem to make Mr. Bolles' participation part of his job description. And inasmuch as we do 99 percent of our work, meetings, etc. in the evenings and on weekends, I'd say Matt Bolles goes above and beyond what might be expected of his position. Were that not the case, however, it is absolutely ludicrous to infer that any town employee could not participate in extra-curricular activities of their own choosing.

Regarding payment for use of facilities, JCT is treated precisely as are other organizations - no fee. It's a community center - for the use of the community, for heaven's sake!

It was the inferences made and manner in which this topic was handled at the council meeting that I really found reprehensible. The inference that JCT discovered safety needs in the Community Center was simply ridiculous. Those areas of need were brought to the board's attention by Mr. Bolles. The board then voted to contribute to their completion (to the tune of $36,000 over the years). Again Mr. Schnack: "performance issues are in question and it isn't fair to discuss the performance of a town employee at a public meeting."

If the council wished to be fair to Mr. Bolles, and indeed to the townspeople, you might have stated when the topic came up for discussion that there was additional information that needed to be explored and then recommend the topic for executive session. Rather, you chose to allow misinformation to be made public, create inference and innuendo, and then continue the subject to executive session, effectively closing the topic to public comment.

You have an obligation to your employees. You have an obligation to the residents of this town. Within those obligations are discovery and disclosure of fact, not conjecture and furtherance of personal agendas. The Jamestown Community Theatre has been a vital and beloved presence in Jamestown for over 16 years. It is run by volunteers. It is enjoyed by an enormous cross section of our residents. My understanding is that the only reason it is under the recreation department at all is to provide insurance, keeping membership fees minimal, ensuring that anyone who wants to participate, can. What a shame it would be to lose such an important resource.

It is my hope that you will weigh carefully the motivations behind this scrutiny. Again I point out that the method by which JCT fits within the town structure is not all that uncommon. Different isn't bad. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Sincerely, Joan McCauley,

board member

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