By Susanne Reynolds
CAIRO — The Grady County Board of Commissioners has agreed to donate $4,000 toward the Zebulon Theater’s digital fund. The vote was 3-2.
The board was approached by a citizen claiming he would contribute $4,000 if the county and city would donate $4,000 each to pay off the Zebulon Theater’s digital conversion loan of $12,000.
A discussion was opened by Commissioner Charles Norton, who wanted to know who exactly owns the Zebulon Theater.
The Regional Community Center, a non-profit organization, currently owns and operates the Zebulon. It pays the theater’s bills and insurance.
Commissioner Lafaye Copeland said, “Commissioner Childs and I were approached on Saturday by the gentleman asking us to donate the money. We wanted to know if the city was going to match the $4,000? I have no problem with the Zebulon. I have volunteered many, many hours there.”
LeQuita LeGette, a lifelong citizen of Cairo and the granddaughter of Ethel Blanton, who opened the Zebulon Theater in 1936, was present at the meeting and asked to address the commissioners. She ensured the commissioners the city would give $4,000 if they did— but the city probably would not if they did not.
LeGette told the commissioners about the importance of the Zebulon Theater in Cairo.
“Today, I found out the drapes put up in there are from 1935 — very good material. I sent you all a notice that stated most small towns want one thing, and that’s a theater. Most of them do not have one. We have it. It is going to be the cornerstone of our downtown.
“Ride through and you’ll see the lights on. Do you see lights on anywhere else? If we do not pull the citizens of Cairo and Grady County to keep what we have and add to it, we’re not going to exist.”
Commissioner Billy Poitevint was concerned about the issue.
He said, “It never has been done in the past because we are dealing with taxpayers’ money.”
LeGette said she understood concerns, but explaiined that if the downtown area is not kept looking vital,there will be no people in the town to pay taxes.
LeGette said, “Right now, I question the vitality of the downtown area. We need your support.”
Copeland asked County Attorney Kevin Cauley if giving the donation was legal.
Cauley stated, “It’s legal and it’s a discretionary item for the board.”
Chairman T.D. David felt that if the board was convicted to give the money, it should whether the city or citizen matched their contribution or not.
“Are we going to lead the way? If the city follows, then it does. We’ll have to look the taxpayers in the eye and say. ‘This is what we did with $4,000 of your money,’” said David.
Norton was concerned about setting a precedent for other organizations in need of donations.
A motion was made and seconded to donate $4,000 to the Zebulon Theater. The vote was 3-2, with Norton and Poitevint voting against the donation.
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.