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March 25, 2014

Cairo City Council postpones donation

CAIRO — A decision to give the Zebulon Theater a donation in the amount of $4,000 has been postponed by the Cairo City Council.

A representative of the Regional Community Center and the Zebulon Theater presented the need for the theater in Cairo.

Regional Community Center Board Chairman Bert Wind told the council why the theater was forced into converting from film to digital.

He said, “Since film is no longer used, the only prospect in keeping the theater open was to convert to digital.”

Wind claimed it to be a “unique” opportunity to keep the Zebulon running.

“We had a lot of support from the community and volunteers were able to raise about three-quarters of the proceeds for the conversion fund,” he said.

After six months of fundraising and still being short of its goal, the Regional Community Center felt it was time to ask for private contributions. The short term loan for the conversion was $12,000-14,000.

A citizen has promised to match the $4,000 if the city council and Grady County Commission would give $4,000 each to pay off the rest of the loan.

There are also plans being made for the general upkeep of the theater, such as the side curtains, etc.

“I just wanted to take this time to bring this to your attention and help in keeping the Zebulon Theater running — and for you to consider it,” said Wind.

LeQuita LeGette, a lifelong resident of Cairo, also spoke to the council about her grandmother, Ethel Blanton, who created the Zebulon Theater. She asked council members to support the theater.

“What I would like for you to do it boost the theater by attending. At this time, we are at a turning point in the town. We are either going to make it or we’re not going to make it,” she said.

Last week, county commissioners voted in favor of giving the Zebulon Theater a $4,000 donation.

Council member Jimmy Douglas did not like people speculating that the city would follow the commissioners’ lead.

He said, “No one needs to commit the city to anything.”

LeGette told Douglas it was the hope that it could be a joint effort, but the commissioners voted to give the donation as a standalone.

“They voted to give the donation regardless of what anyone else did,” said LeGette.

City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman spoke to the council about the legalities of donating money to the Zebulon Theater.

He said, “It is my understanding that the government can’t give money to anyone. However, if it is done, there needs to be a contract of services with the agency. There needs to be contract of transferring the money to the agency. Elected bodies do not give away money — and that’s the rule.”

The city attorney went on to say the contract will ensure the money is being used appropriately.

“There is nothing that says you can’t transfer money through a contract,” said Lehman.

The council decided to postpone its vote on donating money to the Zebulon Theater until its April meeting.

Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.



 

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