Council votes on Wayne funding

Story by Chris Graham

Waynesboro City Council has finally weighed in on the Wayne Theatre project.
And the verdict was a bit of a surprise.

City council voted 3-2 tonight in favor of a resolution guaranteeing $300,000 in support for the plans of the Wayne Theatre Alliance regarding the redevelopment of the 81-year-old historic landmark – and possibly as much as $1 million over 10 years if the theatre alliance meets a number of performance-based goals.

The vote ostensibly ends what had become a contentious and divisive political debate over the past two-plus years – though the resolution promises to have the dissension in the ranks linger on into the future.

Only one member of the five-member council spoke as to the reasons behind his or her vote on the resolution on the table tonight – Frank Lucente, who stated a series of philosophical objections to the use of city funds for the economic-development initiative.

“Personal feelings are not the issue here – what makes sense for all the citizens of Waynesboro is. And funding the Wayne Theatre with public money and public funds does not,” said Lucente, reading from a prepared statement.
“I do not believe the city should be a funder of any private incentive initatives on this level – and the council seemed to agree with me when we voted 5-0 not to be the primary funder of such iniatives,” Lucente said.

“You can argue what primary means, but when the city is planning to give a million dollars to a private enterprise, in my mind we are a primary funder,” Lucente said.

The city would actually not be a primary funder for the project to renovate the Wayne – which will cost an estimated $5.4 million and is set to get going with bricks-and-mortar work getting under way later this spring. The theatre alliance has set a goal for private fund raising at $2 million, and alliance chair Bill Hausrath said that it appears that the private campaign will surpass that water mark in the coming months.

The WTA has also won the support of the Virginia General Assembly – which has committed $700,000 in state taxpayer funds toward the redevelopment project.

The involvement of the city in the public-private renovation of the Wayne will not be the first public-private project involving the use of city funds – even for members of the current city council. A 5-0 majority that included Lucente voted in January 2006 in favor of a public-private deal with a North Carolina developer that returns local taxes generated in the future toward the development of what is now known as the Waynesboro Town Center.

Lucente was joined by council member Tim Williams in voting against the funding resolution.

Mayor Tom Reynolds, vice mayor Nancy Dowdy and council member Lorie Smith voted in favor of the resolution.

(Originally published 04-30-07)

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