A group of citizens who want to see a cultural arts/conference center established in Fuquay-Varina pushed the effort forward last week, appearing before the town board in large number and with funds in hand to help pay at least half the cost of a feasibility study of the proposed project.
A citizen-generated Cultural Exploratory Committee (CEC) has sought and received bids from five companies that would be interested in doing the study and selected three to submit to the town for consideration. The three proposals range in cost from $25,500 to $40,000.
Board members expressed their appreciation to the citizens who have taken the project in hand, created the CEC to determine what type center is wanted and needed, and raised money for a study; however, some questions were raised about whether the town should take on - and spend taxpayer dollars on - a project that had no town participation in its development.
Mayor John Byrne and several of the commissioners attended the visioning meeting held by the CEC in October to get ideas from the approximately 120 citizens who chose to attend. No commissioner has offered any objection to exploring the idea or to the vision the community meeting led to.
CEC Chairman Keith McCombs specifically thanked Byrne for comments he made at the meeting, quoting him as saying “…The time is right to begin serious discussions about a cultural arts/conference center for Fuquay-Varina.”
While various citizen groups have called for some type of cultural arts facility over many years, it was not until the current 2012-13 budget, including a five-year capital projects list, placed construction of a cultural arts center in the fifth year at an estimated cost of $3,500,000.
It was Commissioner Charlie Adcock who raised the question of whether the town should move ahead, allocating funds for a study, without being sure this is what the town wants and needs.
Committee members pointed out, relative to town involvement, that Jim Seymour, the town’s economic development director, has worked with the committee throughout the effort and that Town Manager Jon Barlow has been apprised of the group’s plans throughout the process and provided with copies of the proposals for a feasibility study.
Commissioner Cindy Sheldon agreed with Adcock. She, too, expressed appreciation to the committee members and to all those who have pledged money to the effort. “Thank you. That’s a huge commitment,” she said.
Sheldon feels the town needs to be more involved. “We are investing taxpayer dollars,” she said. “We need to hire somebody to tell of whether we should do it.”
Commissioner Ed Ridpath, who has supported the citizen effort, warned those present that when a feasibility study is conducted, it might not show what the proponents want.
While the CEC had hoped Barlow would be ready last week to recommend to the board one of the proposals for a feasibility study, commissioners voted to ask the manager to review the proposals and the process and be ready to advise them at the Dec.3 meeting.