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Bank group won't refinance Md. Theatre mortgage

January 23, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Two members of the financially troubled Maryland Theatre's board of directors have resigned, and a group of banks holding the theater's mortgage have refused to refinance a $130,000 mortgage payment due in May, board President Patricia Wolford said Thursday.

"The banks want someone else to carry the mortgage," said Wolford, who also is the theater's acting director.

Farmers & Merchants Bank and Trust is the lead bank for the group holding the mortgage, taken out in 1994 when the theater was in the midst of a funding crisis. The original mortgage was for $250,000.

Wolford said she still hopes to find refinancing for the final $130,000 payment, which is due May 27. Refinancing would enable theater officials to make smaller payments over several years.

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The theater has budgeted $45,000 this year for the mortgage payment and interest, she said.

Wolford earlier said she hoped to reduce annual mortgage payments to between $20,000 and $30,000, plus interest.

Board members Frances Young and Heather Sutton turned in their resignations this month, Wolford said.

Young, who began her third three-year term on the board last summer, said she turned in her letter of resignation after the board met on Jan. 16. The board has not formally accepted her resignation.

Young said she resigned in order to spend time on other activities and with her family. She said she would continue to help the theater as much as she could.

Sutton's resignation was accepted at the Jan. 16 board meeting, Wolford said. Sutton, an assistant vice president and department manager at Hagerstown Trust, joined the board last June.

Sutton could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

According to the theater's bylaws, the board can have from 5 to 15 members, Wolford said. Following the two resignations, the board is down to nine members.

The theater is not actively recruiting board members, but Wolford said anyone interested in serving would be considered.

"It requires commitment," she said, noting that board members are expected to help raise funds.

For the first time, a goal has been set calling for each board member to obtain annual pledges of $10,000, Wolford said.

"I'm in a position that the theater has to have money and the board has to be responsible for raising a certain amount of money," she said.

Wolford expects the fund-raising campaign to establish a funding base of up to $80,000 this year.

Wolford said she'd like to raise at least $60,000 this year to help pay routine expenses, such as utilities and insurance.

Those who pledge money would be asked to make their contributions in quarterly payments so that the theater would have a predictable income, she said.

So far, board members have received $16,000 in pledges from business officials they've contacted for support, Wolford said.

While not everyone is adept at raising funds, Wolford said most board members felt the campaign was the right approach.

Board member Karen Giffin agreed with the campaign. "I believe board members should try to help," she said.

Board member Sue Graff, who is co-chair for the campaign, said each board member has a list of 10 businesses or business people to contact for pledges.

While Young was unable to participate in the campaign because of other obligations, Sutton made some calls for the campaign, Graff said.

Graff said theater officials hope to meet their fund-raising goal by the end of March so the money will be available during the year to help pay expenses.

If the board's fund-raising campaign fails, the theater will have to return to relying more on benefit performances, Wolford said.

In 1996, the theater raised between $15,000 and $16,000 from benefits, she said.

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