Town approves armory lease for new arts center


By David Meade

Persons attending the Williamston Town Council meeting Monday were treated to art-in-progress displays and string music prior to the meeting. The exhibit in the halls of the Williamston Municipal Center was presented by the newly formed Palmetto Cultural Arts Center organization.

During the council meeting, four representatives of the organization presented information about the new program to Council as part of the presentation to encourage the town to lease the armory as the home of the Palmetto Cultural Arts Center.

Board member Boyd Green presented information on five year revenue projections from the establishment of the cultural arts center in Williamston.

The organization requested help from the town to get the new arts program and center up and running. The arts center board asked the town to help with first year expenses including electricity, $22,287; water, $2,610 and maintenance of $40,000.

Projected revenues generated by the establishment of a cultural arts center in Williamston are expected to come from hospitality tax revenues, franchise fees, license and permits and rental income from the arts center.

Total net revenues for the program over a five year period were estimated at $632,882.

In the first year hospitality tax revenues are estimated at $8,647; franchise fees of $6,416 and license and permits $3,089. The town is expected to have net expense of $46,744.

In the second year, projections show hospitality tax revenues of $25,942; franchise fees of $6,416 and license and permits of $15,445. The town is expected to see a net revenue of $47,804.

In the third year each of the revenue sources is expected to double and the arts center will have rental income of $36,000. The town is projected to see annual revenue of $147,053. Increases in year four and five show annual projected net revenues of $205,459 and $279,310.

The revenue projections are based on the assumption that the town will see increases in hospitality tax revenues, franchise fees and licenses and permits due to more people being in town for events related to the new cultural arts center and new businesses that will locate in the town as it becomes more appealing.

The model is based on the growth experienced in Fountain Inn when a similar program was established in that town.

In five years Foutain Inn building occupancy went from 60 percent to 95 percent and 500 to 2000 people were drawn downtown on a weekly basis.

Green said that the Palmetto Cultural Arts Center has applied for a $150,000 grant and is seeking a $250,000 endowment, which if received, will allow the organization to fund itself.

As part of the arts presentation, Director Mary Catherine Smith told council that the arts center will focus on three diciplines; visual, music and performing arts. Each department has a director in place, she said.

Smith explained that the center plans to offer programs that will reach out to the community with classes and art lessons for everyone, “including those who can not afford to pay.”

Smith said the people who have become involved in establishing the arts program are very dedicated. “God brought together these real special people,” she said. “They are people who love this community.”

Artist and teacher Thomas Addison said the organization is already viable and is beginning fund raising. He said the armory building would be an ideal facility for the organization to offer more programs to the community.

Addison said a one of a kind summer arts camp is already being planned for elementary and middle school students which will highlight things found only in Williamston.

One of those is the town’s mineral spring water, which can be used for a pottery glaze that is unique. According to Addison, the iron in the spring water “makes a lovely glaze” on pottery.

He presented a handmade piece of artwork which had been finished with the local glaze, giving it a shiny light yellow look.

The center already has 20 adult volunteers and will be offering a variety of classes like quilting, floral, scrapbooking and others, Addison said.

Wendy Cox Capps will be the Dance and Theatre Director for the program.

Capps said the Palmetto Cultural Arts Center is already partnering with the Christain Youth Theater in Anderson. The CYT will be donating gate receipts from one of five performance they are doing at Palmetto Middle School to the arts center.

They are also planning a summer children’s musical program and a production in time for the Spring Water Festival and another at Christmas.

Candace Henry, strings director at Palmetto schools, is also working with the Palmetto Cultural Arts Center. She said the strings group performing prior to the meeting were students from Williamston.

She said she is planning an arts and music camp this summer.

“We are excited about this wonderful opportunity to work with this program and the community,” she said.

After some discussion about details such as cutting grass at the facility and insurance liability and coverages, Council approved a memorandum of understanding to lease the armory building to the Palmetto Cultural Arts Center.

Several recommendations by Councilman Rockey Burgess were added to the agreement.

They are: the town will provide the requested funding in two installments; there will no modification of the facility without mayor and council approval; the town will have the ability to use the facility without added compensation and there must be some way to show accountability. Councilman Otis Scott requested that the lease show no alcohol.