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PAM doesn’t pay

Megan Stokes

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Even after the Maitland City Council said it would not ask Performing Arts of Maitland to open its checkbook Monday night, dozens of the nonprofit organization’s supporters lined up at the podium to plead with the Council to “leave PAM alone”.

Four years ago, Broad Street Partners promised to donate $50,000 to PAM when they received a building permit for their project, Residences at Ravinia, and another $50,000 when they got their occupancy permits. In September 2006, the Council voted to give PAM a $50,000 “advance” on the Broad Street money with an agreement that PAM would repay the city with the first payment from the developer.

But in 2008 Broad Street’s managing partner Steve Walsh died and the Ravinia project was handed to Bcom, a partner in the project. The chances of the project moving forward seemed slim.

Monday night, Councilwoman Bev Reponen asked that PAM start repaying the funds now to help reinstate one or two of the 23 jobs that were frozen or consolidated to balance the 2011 budget.

“The arts are to Maitland what apple pie is to moms. It gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling. But this is not about appreciation of the arts,” Reponen said, who added that her children played in PAM’s Maitland Symphony Orchestra. “I want to be proactive about job loss and reinstate one or two positions [in the city] and that’s getting these funds back from PAM,” Reponen said. “Keep in mind, next year there will be more cuts.”

Last week, Bcom representatives sent Council a letter stating that they intend to continue with the project and fulfill Broad Street’s original deal with PAM.

“They basically acknowledged that they owe this,” Vice Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said. “This is something I don’t think we have the right to mess with. This letter says it all.”

“The developer has said they will move forward. You’re going to get your $50,000 and your cake too,” PAM founder and former council member Jeff Flowers added, saying that the money from PAM will be nothing compared to the revenue the Ravinia project will bring in.

The umbrella organization encompasses arts programs such as Maitland Symphony Orchestra, the Maitland Farmers Market, the Maitland Poets and Writers and the Maitland Stage Band. Members of the community and council reminisced about the good times they’ve had at PAM events. Mayor Doug Kinson recalled watching the orchestra at the city’s 125th anniversary celebration.

“It was moving; it was an experience; it was a very meaningful point in my life,” he said.

During the meeting, Flowers’ wife, June, asked Reponen, a former PAM board member, whether her request was a result of a grudge against her husband or PAM. But Reponen was not alone in her plea. Several citizens were also concerned about city funds.

“I think this community was already established long before PAM,” said Louise Elliot, adding that the taxpayers are the ones who have provided Maitland’s high quality of life.

Resident Bruce Grossman said it’s unlikely the $50,000 would fund lost positions so Reponen’s “position is flawed.”

“Why don’t you just forgive this loan,” he asked the Council, which resulted in an eruption of applause.

Councilman Phil Bonus made the motion to honor the existing agreement.

“The timing is inappropriate… but I think it would be great if this encouraged PAM to be more enterprising and pay back the money voluntarily when the city needs it,” he said.

After a two-hour discussion on the topic, the Council agreed unanimously to honor the original agreement. According to City Attorney Cliff Sheppard, PAM is not required to pay back the funds until the developer gets a building permit, which will likely take at least two years.