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County, DeltaARTS move closer to lease deal for Schoettle Center

Arts program director ‘ so excited’ about move to facility

DeltaARTS moved a step closer to finalizing a lease to occupy the Schoettle Center as the group’s headquarters.

The Quorum Court gave County Judge Woody Wheeless permission to enter into negotiations to lease the building to the arts group.

Justice Ronnie Sturch, who chairs the county buildings committee, said they agreed to lease the building for 10 years for one dollar a year.

DeltaARTS will be responsible for reimbursing the county for insurance, and paying the utilities and any maintenance and repair on the building.

The county tabled the lease last month to work out the details. DeltaARTS originally wanted a fiveyear lease but justices asked for $100 a month to help offset the cost of the furniture which it purchased for $5,000.

Sturch said the group countered with a 25-year lease but members felt that would tie the county’s hands for too long on the building, and instead compromised on ten years.

“The reason they wanted a longer period of time was for fundraising projects,” Sturch said. “They said having a five year lease a lot of people don’t want to give money long-term to a short-term project situation. So this will allow them to raise capital funds. The committee felt a 10 year lease was reasonable.”

DeltaARTS is a non-profit arts group that provides art, theater, education, and learning experiences for students, teachers, families and senior citizens in Crittenden County, eastern Arkansas, north Mississippi and west Tennessee.

The Glenn P. Schoettle Medical Education Center is a 7,500 square foot facility which includes a 76-seat auditorium and physician’s study room.

The facility was built in 2000 and was a gift from the Schoettle Center in honor of his 47 years of medical practice in Crittenden County. The building is owned by the county and got caught up in the bankruptcy proceedings when Crittenden Regional Hospital closed in August 2014 and declared bankruptcy.

DeltaARTS plans to use the building for its offices and for small theater performances, art exhibits and workshops.

The group currently rents space in the Holiday Mall for $750 a month, but the property is set to be demolished in October.

Justice Stacy Allen asked whether there were any other offers on the building. “Does anybody else have an interest in renting out that building?” Allen asked. Sturch said no other group has expressed an interest in either renting it or purchasing the building.

“There may be some inter- est. But nobody has formally requested anything,”

Sturch answered.

Allen then asked what would happen if a buyer came forward and the building was leased to DeltaARTS.

Sturch said the county could still sell the building, but the buyer would have to take over the lease.

“The way I understand it in real estate is if somebody wants to buy the property certainly we can sell it. But they would have to honor the lease,” Sturch said.

Sturch disclosed that there is also $33,000 from a trust fund for the building which is currently being held by the bankruptcy trustee.

The county has agreed to use that $33,000 for repairs.

The building needs a new air conditioning unit which will cost about $24,000 and about $5,000 in roof repair.

“We have said that they can use those funds first to do the repairs until they are gone,” Sturch said. “It can only be used on that building and since the county owns that building we might as well use it.”

Any repair costs beyond that $33,000 will be paid for by DeltaARTS.

Justice Vickie Robertson questioned where the money is and why no one knew about it.

“Why is it that we are just now hearing about this?”

Robertson asked. “I’d like to know where the money is. Up until now I hadn’t heard there was any money.”

County Attorney Joe Rogers said he was also unaware of the money, but would ask bankruptcy trustee Jan Thomas about it.

“I don’t know why it is in the bankruptcy account,” Rogers said.

“We cleared up all the debt that was out there that had all our buildings tied up,” added County Judge Woody Wheeless. “So I would assume it freed that up.”

Rogers said he would draft a lease and bring it back to the Quorum Court for approval.

DeltaARTS is hoping to move into the building May 1.

“I’m so excited,” said DeltaARTS Executive Director Amelia Barton. “We will be wonderful stewards and caretakers of that building.”

By Mark Randall