City will pick up tab for Avalon

Council agrees to bridge gap of about $840K

It wasn’t a standing ovation, but spirited applause nonetheless, after a majority of Grand Junction city councilors voted to approve more funding for a first phase remodel and addition to the Avalon Theatre.

About 40 supporters showed for the Wednesday night meeting, a few of them offering impassioned speeches about why the city should front the money to finish out the project at its new price of $9.65 million.

Councilors Duncan McArthur and Marty Chazen voted against increasing the contract amount. All other councilors voted for the change, including Barbara Traylor-Smith, Sam Susuras, Phyllis Norris, Jim Doody and Bennett Boeschenstein.

The contract change represents an increase of $1.45 million to completely finish the theater, the lobbies, mezzanine, bathrooms on both levels and a rooftop terrace. A previous price tag for a full buildout, minus the rooftop terrace, came in at $8.6 million, according to the general contractor for the project, FCI Constructors.

However the city has already collected and fundraising efforts have raised nearly $8.3 million, the city has said. And, costs for the first phase are guaranteed not to top $9.65 million, city officials have said.

Including $470,000 in contingency funds from the project, the city would need to bridge a gap of $840,000, according to City Manager Rich Englehart.

He said the city could use most of $900,000 in unspent 2013 funds that would be carried over to this year’s budget. However, some of those dollars are allocated for street improvements, he said.

“I wouldn’t suggest that you would have to go to the reserves for this,” Englehart told councilors.

During the comment period, Richard Schultz said that he wasn’t opposed to the Avalon being an anchor to the downtown, but he questioned the city having ownership in a building that formerly was privately owned. Similarly, Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center on the other end of Main Street also initially was intended to be a private endeavor, he said.

“I’m concerned about fiscal responsibility,” Schultz said.

Councilor Barbara Traylor-Smith said she wanted to use Wednesday night’s meeting as a call to the community to step up and donate to the project. Recently, the Commission on Arts and Culture donated $80,000 of its annual budget of $110,000 to the project, the city said.

To date, 375 individuals have contributed to the project, according to the Avalon Theatre Foundation. It has met its goal of raising $1.1 million, but fundraisers are confident they can raise $500,000 and help the city bridge the funding gap.

After Wednesday night, fundraisers can add two more donors to the list. After Traylor-Smith announced she was donating $250, Mayor Sam Susuras chimed in that he would match his fellow councilor’s contribution.


COMMENTS

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I think each city councilor who votes to use taxpayers monies to support a private enterprise should be required to donate a minimum of 1% of those monies without benefit, especially on a project like this that benefits so few and is a perpetual money pit. S.Price

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