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Council considers arts center proposal

January 13, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HANCOCK - The Hancock Town Council is considering a proposal from the town's Arts Council to revamp its community center, converting the meeting room into a performing arts center.

Councilman Sinclair Hamilton, who also sits on the Arts Council, proposed the performing arts center during the town council's December meeting.

Hamilton wants to make the space available to the community for dances, plays and festivals.

"The arts are big money," Hamilton said. "It's important to the economy of a small town like this."

The room still would be available for the town council's Wednesday night meetings and other community activities, Hamilton said. The Arts Council primarily would use the space on weekends, he said.

At Wednesday's town council meeting, Councilman Maurice "Rusty" Wheeler expressed concern about the costs involved and "taking away space from other organizations." The Hancock Lions Club and the town's police department both would be affected by the project.

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A stage already is in the community center's large room. It was walled off years ago, and now is used as a storage area by the police department. Hamilton proposed removing the wall and installing a stage curtain and stage lights.

To make room for seating in front of the stage, a partial wall would have to be moved back several feet, reducing the space for refrigerators and shelves used by the Hancock Lions Club for the club's food bank.

Police files currently stored on the stage would have to be moved. Space exists elsewhere inside the community center for the files, Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said.

Regarding funding for the proposed arts center, Murphy, a member of the Arts Council, said that the council has funds, and opportunities are available to obtain grants.

The Arts Council has $4,000 in the bank, recently received a $1,000 grant from the Washington County Arts Council and is prepared to cover the costs of renovating the space, Hamilton said.

Once the performing arts center is up and running, the project would be self-sustaining, Hamilton said. The council can sell tickets for events, and also organize fundraisers and seek grants.

Other organizations rent space in the community center, and Town Manager David Smith raised concerns about maintaining the level of revenue. Tri-State Community Health Center, the Washington County Health Department and the Washington County Commission on Aging all rent space in the building.

The Hancock Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and senior citizens all use space, but do not pay rent, Smith said.

Tracy Wolford loves the idea. Her daughter's dance class currently performs recitals in Hedgesville, W.Va., because there is no appropriate space in Hancock.

"I would like to see this building benefit all members of the community," Wolford said.

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