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JDA explores transfer of Lyric property

By Staff | Jun 11, 2020

The Rugby Job Development Authority board voted Wednesday to consult with local attorney Galen Mack on a proposal to transfer ownership of the Rugby Lyric Theater.

JDA Executive Director Liz Heisey told the board how “major capital improvements were needed on the Lyric building led to the purchase of the theater in 2013 by the JDA. “We have an existing lease with Friends of the Lyric that was drafted in 2013,” Heisey noted.

“At the time, that addressed smaller capital improvements. They did electrical improvements and added a few things. So, the agreement they had was if they did some capital improvements and maintenance, they wouldn’t have to pay rent,” Heisey added.

In the lease, there are some holes that don’t really address equity issues. There’s nothing to protect the leaseholders or the JDA. Those are things that definitely need to be addressed,” she added.

Board member Terry Hoffert shared concerns he said he had heard from concerned citizens about the exterior of the building.

Board member Sue Steinke, who serves as Rugby’s mayor and a member of the Friends of the Lyric, told Hoffert, “We bought windows for the front, but we haven’t had them installed yet.” Steinke also told the board how the Friends of the Lyric hopes to match the theater’s faade to other building exteriors on Main Avenue and have the theater’s original brick faade restored. Steinke and Friends of the Lyric member Bonnie Kuehnemund detailed problems caused by the later addition of a stone faade, which damaged the original building front.

“That’s the problem we’re dealing with now and have been in the last year,” Steinke said, adding the Friends of the Lyric’s main challenge is “to try to figure out what is the best avenue there. If you try to cut the stone and sandblast it off, the actual brick on the building will probably crumble.”

“Bonnie (Kuehnemund) and I (met with stone masons) who told us what we would have to do. We want to bring it back to original as much as we can, so taking that stone off and adding a whole wall of brick, basically, and try to bring it back close to its original look to try to restore the value of the building.”

Steinke also addressed issues raised by citizens concerning the theater’s marquee.

Kuehnemund told the board the original marquee “fell apart” due to deterioration.

“They found the building wasn’t supporting (the marquee) really well,” Kuehnemund said. “They were surprised that it even stayed up there.”

“They’d have to have poles or something (to support it) because the building itself wasn’t stable enough to support it the way it needs to,” she added.

“If the desire is for a marquee there, it’s got to be done in conjunction with the whole wall at the front of the building. It can’t be two separate things. It’s got to be one project,” Steinke said.

Steinke added, “I don’t think any of the Friends of the Lyric think the way that the building looks right now is great, but (improving it) is going to be a huge project because you’ve got to redo the face of the building, incorporate a marquee and raise enough money to do it. We have some funds but we don’t have enough funds on hand to do that whole project.”

Steinke said another fundraising campaign would be needed to raise money for the entire project.

The board also discussed the need to draw up a contract to transfer the property to the Friends of the Lyric or possibly sell it and recoup the cost of improvements the charity put into the building. As a 501 (c ) 3 organization, the Friends of the Lyric would have the right to own the theater.

Board members cast majority vote to hire Mack for legal assistance and advice in the matter. Steinke abstained from the vote.

In other business, Heisey reported meeting with officials from Economic Development North Dakota and the state tax commission. Heisey shared projections for North Dakota’s economy with the board.

“Right now, the 2021 outlook looks okay,” Heisey said. “It looks like we’re rebounding slowly. The restaurants are hardest hit according to the state; the restaurants have lost maybe 25 percent of their revenue for the rest of the year.”

“They’re probably going to be the ones that are hit hardest,” she added.

“(State officials) were pretty optimistic,” Heisey said. “Things seem to be rebounding. Oil seems to be coming back up. The interest rates being down are good.”

“There are people looking at North Dakota as their next destination, too,” she noted.

Heisey added, “One of the questions that we’ve been asked during the last month is, ‘What is your community doing to bring people here?’ People want to leave the larger, urban areas because of the virus and unrest. They want to come to small communities. They want to know what or community is doing to help attract those leaving the urban areas.”

Heisey told the board, “Workforce attraction remains one of Rugby’s biggest challenges. We simply don’t have enough skilled workers to fill the positions we have open.”

Heisey recommended examining the budget to ensure funds were available for student loan assistance programs and local workforce training programs.

Heisey also reported 33 local business owners had responded to a statewide survey given by the EDND. The JDA created a second survey for Rugby area. Heisey reported emailing the survey to local business owners and making it available on social media.

In other business, the board voted to award a contract for signage in the Chalmers Addition to local firm IDesign. The board also voted to renew non-exclusive contracts for lot sales in the Chalmers Addition to Brokers 12, Century 21 and Real Estate 7.

The board also reviewed the JDA’s preliminary budget for 2021, which they will discuss at their July 8 meeting.

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