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Cary Brunswick

January 17, 2010

Foothills must work to secure a new foothold

With the community reeling from the personnel and financial crises at the Foothills Performing Arts Center, it is past time that the board of directors calls a public meeting to explain what has or has not been going on at the center.

There are millions of dollars in taxpayer money and hundreds of thousands more in local donations invested in the Market Street center. The board owes an explanation to the community concerning the recent firings of the executive director and four other employees.

Not only that. Area residents deserve a detailed accounting of the center's finances and what happened to the millions it had on hand at the start of last year.

Given their investments, the city, state and federal governments also may want to know what happened to what once was a dream and then a vision by Peter Macris and few other performing arts enthusiasts in the area.

A decade ago, when Macris was ready to translate his dream into the reality of a performing arts center in Oneonta, he said, "We have the makings here of being a center for the performing arts.

"We hope to be a part of a resurgence and development of the performing arts in this area that will enhance tourism."

Many people, of course, were skeptical that such an incarnation, with a price tag of tens of millions of dollars, could actually occur. Others thought the concept redundant because of the historic Oneonta Theatre, which could be repaired and restored with enough money.

But, somehow, the tireless Macris got the right people behind him and successfully lobbied area lawmakers for grant money. Millions.

The city of Oneonta, through Otsego County, got $600,000 to raze the old Market Street feed mill and then sold the land to Foothills for $10. And the city cut a deal with Foothills for payments in lieu of taxes that gave city coffers, after payouts the first few years, a share of the center's gross receipts for 15 years.

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Cary Brunswick

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