MOUNT VERNON — Intending to address options concerning the strain of increased costs, representatives with the local theater group MTVarts met with the Knox County Commissioners on Monday morning to discuss what changes might be made concerning their rental cost of the Mount Vernon Memorial Theater. Attending the meeting for MTVarts were Janis Stone, producer; Bruce Jacklin, artistic director; Sadie Hunter, board member; and Barb Barry, partnership liaison with First-Knox National Bank.
The Memorial Theater opened for meetings and public gatherings in 1926 and was, at the time, under the supervision of a three-member commission, appointed by the county commissioners. But an Ohio attorney general then ruled the commissioners must be directly responsible for the building and could not delegate authority to a commission. The commissioners have since been responsible for the building.
With MTVarts being a nonprofit organization, Stone stressed the points that their theater rent from 2007 to 2010 increased 129 percent, while at the same time their ticket prices increased 25 percent.
“We love the building, and we want it to be there for the people of Knox County,” said Commissioner Allen Stockberger. “We are willing to subsidize the building to a certain degree because we want to have it there as an asset.”
The rental fees for the use of the Memorial Theater, charged to MTVarts in 2007, was $1,856 for three weeks. The same time period in 2010 cost the performing arts group $4,660. Additional fees for 2010 resulted in a final bill of $6,778.95.
By comparrision, in 2009, Ohio Junior Miss was billed $4,220 for a one-week rental. The Mount Vernon Players were charged $1,520 for two weeks rental in 2009.
These fees have increased due to having to pay to store the pit cover in another room in the theater and having to pay overtime on certain days.
“We understand the reality of budgets and the expense of maintaining this building,” said Stone.
A few discussion points were then emphasized by Stone, asking the commissioners to consider the following suggestions:
•Package price for entire building.
•Reinstating discount for consecutive use.
•Offer volume pricing.
•Eliminate rental of dining room for pit cover storage.
•Provide certification of technicians in order to eliminate charge for light and sound technicians.
In looking at some of the concerns, Commissioner Teresa Bemiller said they could probably take care of the pit cover storage, and Stockberger stated he intends to address the issue of training technicians.
In looking at other groups who use the theater as a rental facility, Stone said, “I don’t want to see other groups charged more, as these rates are already too high for some others.”
Speaking on behalf of the Ohio Junior Miss Program, “We share the same feeling with MTVarts that this building is very beneficial to the community,” said Barry.
Also in question was whether there were any plans for improvement projects at the theater. As the commissioners stated there currently are no such plans, Jacklin raised concern on current needs including lighting, sound, curtains and certain stage props.
“Our community has so much potential. We could possibly bring in even more revenue by exploring improvements,” said Stone.
“The arts in Mount Vernon is flourishing, while those among the state and country are struggling,” said Stockberger. “Now is the time to seek some improvements.”
Jacklin and Stone said that they will be meeting with other groups in the community — Mount Vernon Players, Right Brain Productions, Orange Barrel Productions — to get their input in putting together some proposals for the commissioners to consider.
“We feel we have a good structure,” said Stone. “We just need to try and make things more affordable and more available.”