Fulton Council agrees to pen grant request for theater renovation, fund Brick District downtown plan

The Brick District Association had plenty of good news following the Fulton City Council meeting Tuesday.

The council unanimously agreed to assist the Brick District in applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) as a city subcommittee for the restoration of the historic downtown theater. By a more narrow margin, the council also agreed to allocate money to a revised, smaller version of the downtown improvement plan Brick District representatives first pitched to the council in March.

Brick District President Tom Riley led both proposals, with help on the downtown plan from Brick District member and Fulton Area Development Corporation President Bruce Hackmann, who approached the council in March in Riley’s absence.

Riley told the council that the theater, which began in the 1920s as a vaudeville stage before becoming the city’s movie theater, was donated by B&B Theatres 10 years ago when the cinema company built its new facility on the south end of town. The Callaway Arts Council, which handled fundraising efforts for the building’s restoration prior to the Brick District, failed to raise enough funds to complete any major work and the building fell into further disrepair.

“We have one chance to save the theater, and that chance is Gayla (Dunn, city Community Development Officer who deals in state and federal grants),” Riley said. “If we don’t do something in the next two or three years, it can’t be saved. The only thing we can do is make significant improvements now, and the past 10 years have shown we can’t do that by raising private funds.”

Riley said crews continue to find new problems with the building, in addition to needed tuck pointing, roof repairs and facade work. The basement is flooded, the building has electrical problems and vandalism has caused damage to interior brick walls.

The proposed first phase of the restoration, which will cover a new roof, tuck pointing of the exterior brick, replacement of doors and repairs to the stained glass window, is estimated to cost $250,000. Dunn’s proposal for the CDBG asks for $309,521 to help cover additional costs such as engineering design and environmental impact studies.

Director of Administration Bill Johnson said that there was no guarantee the city would receive the grant, but the city had a good reputation with the state for transparency. He said he felt the project could be completed in about a year’s time once funding is received.

Riley said the second phase of the project would deal with smaller interior renovations and had more time and options for financing.

The council also passed a new, scaled-back version of the Brick District’s downtown infrastructure plan, based on DREAM Initiative recommendations for revitalizing downtown.

After receiving feedback from the council on costs and project priorities with the original plan in March, Hackmann and the Brick District revised their plans that to remove the proposal for renovating the Nichols Street parking lot to serve as an amphitheater and scaled back on plans for benches, wrought-iron trash cans and new signs, bringing the anticipated cost from $26,500 to about $14,000.

“We reworked our priorities to reflect something more feasible,” Hackmann said. “We took out the Nichols Street revisions and focused on banners, trash cans and signs.”

Hackmann said the new plan actually increased the number of Fulton banners that would be hung from light posts downtown from 30 to 40, but reduced hte number of trash cans, benches and signs and refocused its scope on Court Street and Fifth Street.

Hackmann also added that ideally, the Brick District would like to have some of the infrastructure improvements in place by the Street Fair on June 20, and that Fulton State Hospital Chief Operating Officer Marty Martin-Foreman told the Brick District renovation work on the hospital could bring in as many as 10,000 new workers to the city while construction begins.

“That’s basically doubling the population of Fulton, so it’s a great chance to show Fulton in the best light possible,” Hackmann said.

The council ultimately approved $20,000 for the project — more than the estimate, but under the $25,000 budgeted for annual discretionary use — to help pay for additional costs that may arise when installing equipment.

Councilwoman Mary Rehklau voted against that proposal, saying she wanted to keep the cost closer to the estimate. Councilman Rick Shiverdecker also voted against, with Richard Vaughn and Lowe Cannell absent.

Councilman Steve Moore said he would also like to see some of the banners used in other parts of town, rather than having such a dense collection downtown.

“Maybe I’m partial for the south end of town, I used to work there, but I hear a lot that we don’t do as much for that area,” Moore said.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:

•Mayor LeRoy Benton congratulated Johnson on winning the 2014 Jay T. Bell Professional Management Award by the Missouri City/County Management Association. In addition to presenting Johnson with a plaque, Benton invited previous mayors Robert Craighead and Charlie Latham, who both served during Johnson’s 17-year tenure, to congratulate Johnson and say words on his behalf. The city also acknowledged Chief Financial Officer Kathy Holschlag for the city receiving an award from the national Government Finance Officers Association for excellence in financial reporting for the 16th consecutive year.

•Kathy Segerson addressed the council on her concerns regarding the city’s needed new warehouse and public works campus, anticipated to cost $7 million. She said the project should be put off until a petition she is circulating for a state audit of the city is completed. The audit would cost in excess of $50,000. Mayor LeRoy Benton and Councilman Mike West encouraged Segerson and other concerned members of the community to attend an open house tour of the current dilapidated facility off Westminster Avenue, from 4-6 p.m. May 27.

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