Friday, May 9 – Arts Center, AGH Seek County Funds

SNOW HILL – Despite dire predictions of a tight budget year, two local non-profits asked the County Commissioners for funding commitments to create a performing arts center and to expand health services at Atlantic General Hospital.

Performing arts center partisans brought in Memo Diriker of Salisbury University to present the findings from his 2005 study, commissioned by the commissioners, that concluded a performing arts venue, and by preference several, was feasible and would benefit the county financially.

A venue like the 400-seat theater proposed for Berlin could bring in from $700,000 to $1.9 million a year, Diriker said, when calculated conservatively. The facility would generate revenue through ticket sales; space rental for receptions, weddings and classes; and sponsorships. The venue could host 150 events a year from national acts to local dance recitals.

To succeed, a combination of events is necessary, he said.  

Spearheading the committee supporting the effort, Peck Miller told the commissioners, “We want this to be a public-private partnership with the county and citizens.”

Miller asked the County Commissioners to commit $2.5 million over the next five years to renovate space in Berlin. This year, they need $200,000 to complete renovation plans and get permits. County funding would not be needed to operate the venue.

The space could be open as earlier as December 2009 if the commissioners contribute this year.

Worcester County is not the only source of funds supporters expect, and private individuals and groups have pledged $100,000 already.

“The private sector is ready to raise the money to do that we needed to do,” Miller said. “With the money committed by the county, we can go to the bank.”

Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) asked the County Commissioners to contribute $250,000 to the expansion of its primary care clinic and the addition of a child advocacy center for abused children, a diabetes education and care center and an outpatient mental health services office.

The state will contribute $700,000 to the project, but AGH must raise the same amount to match the grant.

“This request is specifically for this project,” said AGH President and CEO Michael Franklin. “We’re going to the other public entities around, we’re going to the towns that we serve. We’re also working in our community with our foundation.”

County Commission President Virgil Shockley said both requests will be discussed in budget hearings.