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July 29, 2003

On A Clear Day You Can See A --------- Solution

George Wenschhof

The continuing Weinberg Center for The Arts saga appears to nearing a solution acceptable to all. The current discussion of a public/private partnership between the City of Frederick and the Weinberg Board of Directors appears to be an effective solution to the ongoing conundrum.

The mayor and the president of the Weinberg Board of Directors have - after approval by the City Board of Aldermen - established a series of public meetings to work out the details of this partnership. This agreement will then be presented at a future Mayor and Board of Alderman Meeting for approval.

Let's look at the situation. The building was deeded to the city for use as a Center for the Arts with some restrictions as to the use. Primarily, these restrictions pertain to the showing of recent motion picture releases.

In addition, the deed established an oversight committee consisting of the Weinberg family, their successors or assigns, the mayor of the City of Frederick, and the president of the board of directors. Initially, the Frederick Arts Council, with a board of directors, managed the Weinberg Center.

Now, let's go with the assertion that the community has socio-economic benefits from the existence of the Weinberg Center. This continued existence has been the result of the transfer of the building by the Weinberg family, a lot of hard work from many individuals, a continued subsidy from the City of Frederick, and donations from the community.

With regard to funding the Weinberg Center, a good argument could be made that Frederick County government should also contribute - in that the residents of Frederick County also benefit from the existence of the Weinberg Center. The same argument could be made to the larger employers in Frederick County, as the Center for the Arts is a good selling point to prospective employees.

It is not mandated by the deed that the employees of the Weinberg Center be City of Frederick employees. As I mentioned earlier, after the transfer of the building to the city, the Frederick Arts Council managed the Weinberg Center. The management of the center by the city occurred years later. Although there is no argument that the funding provided to the center by the city has been a salvation, the management of the center by the city has been wrought with disappointment.

First, I assume the current board of directors would incorporate, if this hasn't already occurred, and eventually assume day-to-day responsibility of the management of the center.

Secondly, I would hope there would be discussion in regard to the city employees assigned to the Weinberg Center. The board of directors of the newly formed corporation should determine the staffing requirements for the center and be responsible for the hiring and firing of personnel. Current city employees should be given proper notice and welcomed to apply for the new positions established by the board of directors.

Third, the City of Frederick should provide funding in the form of a grant to the corporation. This funding could be reduced as the corporation secures funding from other sources down to an agreed upon yearly grant amount from the City of Frederick. This takes the day-to-day management of the Weinberg Center away from the City of Frederick.

The mayor and members of the Weinberg Family could continue to provide input in the future, as they are members of the Oversight Committee.

Other issues and details such as lease terms and maintenance of the building will emerge during the public discussions between the city and the board of directors. However, this public/private partnership can be achieved within months. Then the new corporation can go about hiring a new director and the planning of events.

I am hopeful that these public discussions initiated by the mayor and board of directors are successful. The Frederick Community will benefit from the resolution of this issue and the continued existence of the Weinberg Center for The Arts.

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