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Officials review BPAC's first year
ARLINGTON City and school district officials met at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center for their bimonthly joint meeting Monday, April 14, and the BPAC was at the top of the agenda.
After hearing from Haller Middle School's principal Eric Dejong about the school's art by Tom Foolery, the BPAC's promotions coordinator, Cindy Huleatt, presented a report on the first year of operation at the new performing arts center, looking back a year ago when the fundraising group, Arts Alive, was busily planning the theater's grand opening celebration.
In a collaborative effort between the city and the district to get the theater up and running, Huleatt was hired as promotions coordinator by the city of Arlington, while the theater manager, Bob Nydegger was hired by the school district. Nydegger is the technical expert who manages the operations of productions.
The staffing is part of the two-year interlocal agreement between the city and the district that expires April 2009, "unless we extend it by mutual agreement," Johnson pointed out.
The BPAC advisory commission was formed, comprised of members representing both the school district and the city, along with representatives from the Arts Alive group which worked for five years to raise money to help pay to finish the PAC, and other community groups, such as the city's Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission and the Arlington Arts Council.
The advisory commission includes two representatives from City Council (Chris Raezer and Marilyn Oertle) and two from the School Board (Bob McClure and Jeff Huleatt) with staff representatives from each. Assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield representing the city and Deputy Superintendent Warren Hopkins representing the district.
The commission met weekly for several months, developing bylaws, rules of use and a fee schedule. Once that task was done, they decided to meet quarterly.
"All users must pay the basic costs, including school productions," Huleatt explained.
Superintendent Linda Byrnes reminded those at hand that the agreement comprised a commitment between the city and the district on management structure and cost assumptions. City Administrator Allen Johnson added that one assumption they all agreed upon was that the theater may not cover its expenses in the first two years, but the long-term goal was to make it self-sufficient.
"We had no idea how much loss to expect," Johnson said. "There was some gloom and doom that we might loose as much as $20,000 or even up to $50,000."
The actual numbers however, brought cheer into the room. After all the expenses of the start-up year were calculated the PAC was just over $18,500 in the red.
"That's $500 better than I figured," Bob McClure said.
Voices around the table pointed out that the first six months was mostly dead time, with the staff in training, learning all the aspects of running the theater.
Now with nearly one year done, the BPAC Commission has been charged with reviewing the fee structure and rules of use to determine if changes are needed.
Hopkins pointed out some capital investments have been made by the school district to make the facility more functional, such as tables for meetings like these, in the lobby.
"When we recognized a potential market for using this lobby as a meeting space, we invested in these tables. We have also discovered a need for a fixed acoustic shell above the stage," Hopkins explained that the tall fly space over the stage is good for theater productions, but can drain sound from musical groups.
"The shell has been ordered and will be installed this summer," he said. The $49,079 acoustical shell will be paid for from the school district's capital fund.
Huleatt gave a report on upcoming productions, including the Arlington High School's spring play, "Our Town" which plays April 25 and 26 and May 2 and 3, and the Seattle Shakespeare Company's "Romeo and Juliet" set for May 16. She was excited to report that Everett Symphony has booked a date in the fall as well as Stanwood's Lyric Light Opera and the popular Northwest new age harpist Bronn Journey.
"Not Bon Jovi, as some had heard," Huleatt clarified, mentioning that Journey has sold out theaters in Everett and Mount Vernon.
Huleatt also reported that the recent North Cascades Concert Band tribute to John Phillip Sousa came out ahead while the Elvis show did not cover its costs.
"I can't say the actual amounts as we haven't accumulated all the ticket sales yet," Huleatt said.
"I believe we need a concert series," Huleatt noted that the BPAC has received a $30,000 grant from the city's Lodging Tax Fund, but only $15,000 is designated for booking acts, with another $7,000 for advertising. Other than those funds, bookings and advertising are currently unfunded mandates.
When asked by City Councilman Scott Solla, what surprises she encountered through the year, Huleatt said that the job turned out much different than the job description.
"I find myself doing lots of things I didn't expect, like the other night I was selling tickets in the ticket booth."
She mentioned investing a lot of time and effort in keeping the performers happy so they would return next year.
Byrnes confirmed that adding that Huleatt was hired part time to do promotions, but she has actually been managing the house during productions.
"Cindy has worked much more than she signed up for," Byrnes said.
School director Bob McClure noted that the pressure was on Huleatt to get paying customers to book the hall and they are relieved to learn that there are people out there who want to book the facility.
In the end, the officials around the table were relieved and hopeful for the future.
"I am proud of our employee," Johnson said.
The BPAC Advisory Commission also met last week, on April 23, reviewing the quarterly financial reports and considering strategies for the second year ahead.
Other joint projects
The two public entities also heard an update on emergency management from Chris Badger, another partnership between the city and the district, along with Cascade Valley Hospital. Badger announced that she would have an information table at the safety fair at the upcoming ground breaking party on May 31.
Potential joint projects in the future include a back access to Weston High School with the construction of the Smokey Point Fire Station; the district's offer to host the community garden at the corner of Third Street and French Avenue, if the bond passes and the new building dislocates the current garden, and other minor cooperations like water and sewer lines, fiber optics and utility access to Post Middle School's lower ag area.
Byrnes also mentioned the pedestrian overpass between the new AHS and Pioneer Elementary that was a condition for the construction of the new high school at that location.
"Even with $752,000 of federal money and the $411,000 mitigation money that the district paid to the city when the schools were built, we're still short $991,000," Byrnes said.