Arts council gets surprise $200,000 gift for a new home

Nov. 15, 2012 @ 09:45 PM

In a surprise move Thursday, Democrats on the Board of Commissioners used the last measure of their voting power to give the High Point Arts Council $200,000 for a new home.
High Point attorney Jim Morgan, chairman of the Arts Council board, brought the request to commissioners during time allowed for speakers.  Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point later made the motion that passed 8-3 to take $200,000 from a county contingency fund to help the arts council buy Centennial Station. The council wants to buy the former dinner theater for $860,000 as a home for council affiliates.
Morgan wanted commissioners to support arts in High Point as they have for Greensboro. Davis said the request was urgent because the new board, which takes office next month, probably would not support the request. Democrats have had a 7-4 board majority for several years.
“We have approved requests like this before,” Davis said. “The next board may not want to invest in the arts the way we have.”
The new board will have a 5-4 Republican majority. Of the board’s four Republicans, only Bill Bencini of High Point supported the donation.
“This is off budget, but we need to move quickly on this,” Bencini said. “It is a good deal.”
The building went on the market for $3.6 million, but Southern Community Bank and Trust later bought it at a foreclosure sale for $725,000. The council has a $1 million line of credit and has launched a $1.5 million fundraising campaign, said Debbie Lumpkins, arts council director.
“If we can get this building, it will be an economic engine for the county,” Morgan said.
The Republican commissioners voting against the donation said that they could not support a request that did not go through the community-based organization request process which usually starts in the spring.
“And this will cut our contingency fund by 50 percent,” said Republican Commissioner Linda Shaw.
Earlier, commissioners easily approved on a 9-1 vote a $188,000  incentive to assist OFS Brands, a furniture manufacturer and logistics company, with a proposed expansion.
High Point City Council earlier unanimously approved an incentive of up to $220,000 for the expansion of the company facility at 1264 Jackson Lake Road which is expected to create 188 full-time jobs over five years and add $9.25 million to the local tax base. 
The local governments would pay the incentives in installments over four to five years if the company meets job-creation and capital investment benchmarks.
Company leaders are expected to decide on a site later this month. An out-of-state location also is under consideration.
In another matter, Commissioners dropped from their agenda a proposal to spend as much as $100,000 to develop the County Prison Farm at Gibsonville for a business park. 

Arts Donation
Financing: The Arts Council has two loans totaling $1 million from High Point Bank and Trust, one due in a year and another in three years to help buy Centennial Station at 121 S. Centennial St.