By ROB GLIDDEN
Southington Community Cultural Arts (SCCA) has been given approval by the Town Council to begin the early stages of their plans for an arts center at the Gura Building.
After months of deliberation at the Council level that was often heated, a small committee of councilors and SCCA members was convened to work out a compromise. The final plan passed 8-1.
“It’s wonderful,” said Mary DeCroce, the group’s chairperson. “I think the negotiations really helped. All it took was people sitting around a table and working this out.”
According to a memorandum of understanding read aloud at the meeting, the SCCA will be required to perform a feasibility study at their expense within 90 days. Then it will have 18 months to raise 80 percent of the estimated costs of renovating the Gura Building based on the results of the feasibility study.
If the fundraising does not reach this goal within that time, the agreement will be null and void.
Before being issued a certificate of occupancy for the building, the SCCA will have to document that they have at least $100,000 available to put towards operating costs of the arts center. Then the town will lease the building to the group for 20 years for one dollar each year.
“It is clearly understood by the SCCA that the Town shall have no financial obligation during the fundraising period and the term of the lease,” said Chairman John Dobbins, reading from the memorandum.
In contrast to previous meetings, the vote was taken with very little discussion, with Councilor Stephanie Urillo as the dissenting vote. In previous meetings, Urillo had expressed concerns about traffic and parking issues associated with the plan.
“I’m all for an arts center, but I don’t think this is the right location,” she said.
Councilor Dawn Miceli, who chaired the Gura Building Use committee that recommended the arts center option, said she was pleased with the results of the negotiations.
“The team worked quickly and very cooperatively,” Miceli said. “We only had to meet once. It was civil and clearly very productive. All this group wanted was a chance to try and raise private donations.”
Thanks to a $20,000 from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, the SCCA plans to move quickly with the feasibility study. DeCroce said the group was in the process of choosing a company to perform the work.