Waynesboro: Smart political move by the WTA
Column by Chris Graham
The big question after the May elections for Waynesboro City Council – one of the big questions, anyway – had to do with the future of the Wayne Theatre Alliance.
I was among those who assumed that the Alliance and its planned $7 million renovation of the Wayne Theatre would fade together into the sunset given the outcome of the elections and the message that we had to assume had been sent by city voters regarding the Wayne project, which the victorious new conservative majority had promised to cut from future city budgets.
So here we are five months from the elections and three months from the new conservative majority taking control of City Hall, and the news is that the Alliance is moving forward with the first phase of work on the Wayne, and the most publicly visible, with improvements to the facade and entryway into the 82-year-old theatre.
The work, which will take three months to complete, will be something that the Alliance can point to as progress in its eight-year effort to renovate the Wayne and revive Downtown Waynesboro, and once completed, the political ball is volleyed back in the new conservative majority’s court. The majority – Mayor Tim Williams, Vice Mayor Frank Lucente and Ward B Councilman Bruce Allen – have all said publicly that they personally support the project, with the political nuance coming in their stated opposition to the use of city taxpayer funds for the work. But where would they stand once the Wayne has a new marquee and a new entryway leading to a theatre that is still otherwise gutted? Would they want to be the ones responsible for standing in the way of progress, which could very well be the perception that would result from a move to block promised city funding to the project?
Rhetorical questions, those are, for now, anyway. And don’t think that this wasn’t in the minds of Alliance leaders, who have been engaging in a quiet, behind-the-scenes but rather intense effort to win over supporters among some of the very constituency groups that had pushed Williams, Lucente and Allen to make the Wayne a central political issue in the first place.
You might not read much about it in the local paper, but the work on the Wayne that is getting under way will be the start of an interesting fall and winter political season in Waynesboro nonetheless.