By Michael Rheinheimer
A resolution to authorize a $300,000 grant for the Westfield Playhouse was approved 5-2 during the Aug. 12 Westfield City Council meeting. The money will be transferred from the city’s general fund to the Westfield Economic Development Foundation’s account.
The money is the city’s contribution toward constructing the playhouse. An additional, undisclosed amount is being donated by the Estridge Foundation to help pay for construction. The city was originally asked to only put forward $100,000 toward construction.
Council member Jim Ake explained the need for the grant increase.
“The building cost went up, because when you have a theater there are certain things like fire suppression,” Ake said. “The electrical was underestimated at that time. We have our cost now. Those costs ask for a greater participation from the city. Given that, they’re paying that back over a long period of time. It still says something about their commitment to the project.”
Council member Joe Edwards voiced concern about how additional funds will be raised.
“I’m all in favor of the arts, (but) in my opinion we need to set this aside until the plan is apparent to all,” Edwards said.
“Joe, we’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Ake said.
Council member Cindy Spoljaric echoed Edwards’ concerns about funding. A motion to table the resolution was made by Edwards and was defeated by a 5-2 vote.
The funding resolution was then approved, 5-2.
City Attorney Brian Zaiger informed the council that the actual funding appropriation would be voted on at next month’s meeting. He said the resolution simply shows that the council is willing to move forward with authorizing the grant.
Under the resolution’s terms, funds must be used for the construction of the proposed Westfield Playhouse. A construction agreement also must be reached between the Economic Development Foundation and Estridge Homes and presented to the city. A Memorandum of Understanding between the EDF, the Theater Group, the Westfield Downtown Merchants Association and the Estridge Foundation must be reached and then presented to the city by Oct. 4, or the money will be returned to the city.