2008-02-06 / Front Page

Gaffney council closes curtain on theater plan

By LARRY HILLIARD Ledger Staff Writer larry@gaffneyledger.com

There was more than a little drama Monday when Gaffney City Council considered a recommendation to acquire the former Brown Furniture property from the Gaffney Little Theater.

The City of Gaffney Building and Grounds Committee agreed in a meeting last month to acquire the two buildings and the land at 113 and 115 E. Frederick St. in a memorandum of understanding with the Gaffney Little Theater. The buildings would be renovated into a cultural events center, with the Gaffney Little Theater as the primary tenant.

The city would finance the $4 to $5 million renovation project with hospitality tax revenue generated by local restaurants.

But by a 4-3 vote council voted down the recommendation to the chagrin of Gaffney Little Theater supporters who packed council chambers.

It appeared the motion to approve the recommendation would fail for a lack of a second. That forced Gaffney Mayor Henry Jolly to relinquish his seat to mayor pro tem Bernard Smith to second the motion.

But Jolly's unusual tactic failed to achieve the desired result as Dennis Ramsey, Wayne Ramsey, Boone Peeler and Billy Love voted against the motion.

Dennis Ramsey said he wouldn't support a project without knowing how it would be financed.

"Renovating the post office (into a visitor center and art exhibit) will cost $3.5 million," Ramsey said. "I don't know where the money is coming from."

Jolly said Ramsey knows where the money is coming from - the Hospitality Tax, which could generate nearly $1 million a year.

Dennis Ramsey added the city shouldn't be in the real estate business, which drew the ire of Jolly, a local Realtor.

"I resent that you are implying I'm in the real estate business," Jolly said.

Dennis Ramsey said he never mentioned Jolly by name.

Building and Grounds committee member Wayne Ramsey said he wanted to discuss the matter further at council's planning workshop in March.

Peeler said the postponement would allow council to prioritize its projects.

After the vote, the Little Theater supporters cheered Jolly, who said the project would enhance the quality of life for city residents.

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