Thursday, January 18, 2018
News Roundup

Ruth Eckerd Hall wants time to fill Capitol Theatre piggy bank

CLEARWATER — One day before the splashy reopening of the Capitol Theatre last month in downtown Clearwater, Ruth Eckerd Hall officials delivered a $100,000 check to the city to create a reserve fund for the historic facility.

That's a lot of money, but it wasn't close to meeting the terms of an agreement between Ruth Eckerd and the city that required a $1 million payment before city inspectors signed off on the renovated theater.

Instead, inspectors issued a temporary 30-day permit for the theater's Dec. 18 opening.

An air-conditioning system in need of repair at Ruth Eckerd Hall off McMullen-Booth Road prompted the arts organization to ask the city to renegotiate the terms of the reserve fund.

Later this month, the City Council will vote on whether to allow Ruth Eckerd to pay $100,000 monthly installments from April until the end of the year to meet its obligation to the fund, intended for maintenance and operations at the Capitol.

It would be the third financial change to the agreement since it was signed in September 2012.

Ruth Eckerd Hall operates the city-owned Capitol and led the recent renovation and expansion of the facility.

In July, unexpected construction costs prompted Ruth Eckerd to ask the city for $500,000 from a state grant. The council agreed, only after several members said publicly that they didn't want to see any more cost overruns.

In December, Ruth Eckerd was back at a council meeting, asking for the city's permission to switch another $500,000 of Penny for Pinellas sales tax dollars designated for an educational center at its main location to the downtown theater.

The council again approved it, although Mayor George Cretekos said he didn't want to see the nonprofit back before council asking for any more money for the educational center.

Council member Jay Polglaze has been vocal about the moving budget targets. On Thursday, he said he wants to learn more about the proposal for phased contributions to the reserve fund, but he wasn't thrilled with yet another fiscal tweak.

"It concerns me, because the last cost overruns were for artistic work that I was not personally happy with. Some of those things should have been covered entirely by Ruth Eckerd Hall," he said. "This is positively the last straw. They can't come back anymore."

Ruth Eckerd president and CEO Zev Buffman said that the city was gracious to consider agreeing to "refashion" the deadline for filling the reserve fund.

He said city leaders are happy with the strong early box office receipts at the Capitol and an impressive array of booked acts in coming months.

The council will consider the new payment arrangement at its Jan. 16 meeting.

Cretekos said he is likely to support the proposal.

"I'm disappointed the money wasn't in place (to repair the air-conditioning system at Ruth Eckerd), but not concerned," Cretekos said. "We need to make sure that we've got money set aside at Ruth Eckerd Hall like we have set aside for the Capitol Theatre."

The city owns both venues, Cretekos noted.

"If Ruth Eckerd Hall doesn't do the work, then the city would have to do it," he said.

The slower schedule to fill the reserve fund doesn't worry the mayor.

"Everything is brand-new at the Capitol. I don't see any need for immediate repairs," Cretekos said.

Still, time is of the essence for Ruth Eckerd to put $1 million in the reserve fund, Polglaze said.

"The shorter the time frame, the more likely I will be to support it," he said.

The cash will have to flow quickly. Ruth Eckerd owes the city another $1 million for the reserve fund on the first anniversary of the theater's opening.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Crystal Lagoon planners brace for chilly ribbon cutting today(w/video)

Crystal Lagoon planners brace for chilly ribbon cutting today(w/video)

WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.Members of the business community, elected officials and executives with Metro Development Group and Crystal L...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
St. Pete police presence at MLK Day after-party raises concerns

St. Pete police presence at MLK Day after-party raises concerns

ST. PETERSBURG— Several people have complained about police patrols around the celebration in Midtown that follows the city’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, questioning whether a robust law enforcement presence this year was racially m...
Updated: 29 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Record-breaking cold sends arctic blast through Tampa Bay

Record-breaking cold sends arctic blast through Tampa Bay

It was record-breaking cold this morning as a deep freeze cast over Tampa Bay.Wind-chill advisories are out as feels-like temperatures sit between a bitter 20 and 30 degrees.Tampa tied its recorded for the lowest temperature of 29 degrees on Jan. 18,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Goodman: We can no longer be silent about immigration reform

Goodman: We can no longer be silent about immigration reform

It is one of those times when we won’t have to wait for the judgment of history to learn the verdict of history.More than 800,000 DACA immigrants now sit, stew and wonder if the land they long yearned for is the great nation they long dreamt about.Th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Clearwater Police are searching for a "man-bun bandit" who is seen stealing packages from a residence.Police on Thursday tweeted this video of the suspect, who is seen attempting to balance multiple packages while gathering them at a home on Majestic...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay area doesn’t make cut as Amazon second headquarter finalist

Tampa Bay area doesn’t make cut as Amazon second headquarter finalist

To no one’s surprise, Amazon on Thursday released its list of location finalists for its second headquarters, and neither Tampa nor St. Petersburg was on it."We knew it was going to be a long shot and a difficult road," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said....
Updated: 2 hours ago
Don’t tell Quebec that poutine is ‘Canadian’; British sanctuary wolf briefly tastes freedom; homoerotic underwear dance video is risky business in Russia; more in world news

Don’t tell Quebec that poutine is ‘Canadian’; British sanctuary wolf briefly tastes freedom; homoerotic underwear dance video is risky business in Russia; more in world news

CanadaPoutine is ‘Canadian’? Mais, nonThe friends from Quebec went to London’s Brick Lane food market, searching for a taste of home. But as they devoured their poutine — that gloppy, trouser-bursting dish of french fries, cheddar cheese curds and gr...
Updated: 2 hours ago

As temperatures fall and rise, Tampa braces for another round of water main breaks

TAMPA — This week’s cold snap is expected to keep the city of Tampa’s utility crews busy over the next few days.The city is bracing for another spike in water main breaks as temperatures climb from this morning’s near record lows and another round of...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Joe Henderson: Leaders can’t job-out responsibility for bad substitute teachers

Joe Henderson: Leaders can’t job-out responsibility for bad substitute teachers

Sometimes, people in authority need a reality check before they can recognize a problem that should have been obvious.In this case, it took a meticulously reported story last Sunday by education writer Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times to alert Hi...
Updated: 2 hours ago