Westminster downtown projects receive funds

Assembly approves bonds for theater and Cockey's Tavern

April 15, 2001|By Jamie Manfuso | Jamie Manfuso,SUN STAFF

Two projects in downtown Westminster - one to renovate the former Carroll Theater and the other to help the county historical society purchase two buildings for its downtown campus - each won $200,000 in state bond money from the General Assembly.

But another project, a $4 million arena planned by the Carroll County Agricultural Center, was snubbed by the legislature last week after providing financial support for several years. The Carroll delegation had sought $350,000 on the Ag Center's behalf.

"The General Assembly likes to have the projects ready to go at the time they issue the bond bill," said state Del. Joseph M. Getty.

"They don't like you to accumulate funds over a string of years like we've done," said the Carroll County Republican.

The Ag Center arena project has received $1 million in state bond money since 1996, but construction has not begun.

Although the Carroll County Arts Council did not get all the money it wanted for the theater restoration - $364,000 - Executive Director Sandy Oxx said she was thrilled. She said the council was honored to receive $200,000 in its first try before the Assembly. Many funding requests go back to the Assembly for several years before they are accepted.

"It helped that we had our building plans and that we had much of our funding in hand," Oxx said. "This wasn't a pie-in-the-sky dream. This was something that was simply waiting for extra funds."

With dollar-for-dollar matching funds, the arts council has raised about 83 percent of the $1.4 million needed for the theater's renovation, she said. When completed, the council's new home will feature two galleries, a 264-seat theater, a 3,000-square-foot second-floor expansion and a 640-square-foot backstage addition.

The Historical Society of Carroll County asked for $350,000 but received $200,000 in state bond money.

The funds will assist the society in the purchase and renovation of the Bond House at 202 E. Main St. and Cockey's Tavern at 216 E. Main St.

Costing a combined $475,000, the buildings will give the society an additional 10,000 square feet to expand its research library, public programs, collections storage, and offices for members and volunteers.

Carroll's delegation sponsored all three of the bond requests.

"It was a very successful year for the delegation," Getty said. "We like to go in with one major project a year. It's very unusual for us to go in with three like we did this year."

Groundbreaking on the Ag Center arena project has been delayed. Ag Center officials expect to break ground after the 4-H Fair in August.

The Ag Center is home to agricultural and community events such as the county 4-H fair, the Maryland 4-H Horse Jamboree, local and state 4-H education programs and private ventures such as traveling circuses. The expanded center will provide better facilities for the 4-H and will be rented for shows and events.

Lawrence Meeks, president of the center's board of directors, said he was thankful for the county delegation's support. The denial of funding will not be a major impediment to the project, he said.

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