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Alban Theater's lease renewal debated in St. Albans

By Kristin Ledford

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- Renewing the lease at the Alban Arts and Conference Center was a point of debate at the St. Albans City Council meeting Monday night.

The city originally signed a one-year lease for approximately $39,000 with the St. Albans Regional Development Authority in 2008. They have continued to pay that amount each year.

Councilman John Boles made a motion Monday to renew the lease with the same terms, so there would be a starting point to discuss a long-term lease with STARDA.

But Councilman Stephen Donelson questioned why the theater still needed city funding.

"I am not against the Alban Theater, regardless of what people think," he said. "What I am against is using money and not accounting for that money."

Donelson said that in 2008, council was told the theater would be self sufficient in 18 months.

"Do we want to continue to pay for the Alban, knowing that it is not making a profit to cover its own expenses?"

Other council members and people in the audience argued that any money the city spent would be worth the investment.

"You have to have a magnet -- that magnet is the Alban Theater. This facility draws people to the city," Boles said.

"Even though this is an ongoing financial endeavor, the residuals we get from that far outweighs what is going into the Alban, because we get that double whenever people come in to town," Boles added.

"Alban is just another area of arts that serves the people. And I think we need the Alban and I support the Alban," Councilwoman Helen Warren said.

Joseph Bradford addressed council from the audience. The young man participates in stage productions at the theater.

"A lot of times after school I didn't have much to do, because I'm not the most athletic person in the world, but I really like acting," Bradford said, "and this provides something for me to do and [to] be a part of something."

The motion to renew the lease passed 10-2 in a roll-call vote. Donelson and Cheryl Thomas voted against it.

Also Monday, Mayor Dick Callaway presented outgoing Councilwoman Helen Warren with a blanket as a gift of appreciation for her nearly 40 years of serving on City Council.

Warren decided not to run for re-election this year. She'd served on council since the late 1970s, with a short interruption in the 1980s. She started as a city employee in January 1968.

It was also the last meeting for Donelson and Lee Roberts. 


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