The Springfield City Council approved donating funds to cover the cost of insurance for the Mars Theatre pending approval from the city attorney.
“The (Springfield Revitalization Corporation) is moving on the acquisition of the Mars Theatre, and what I would like to do is have the city provide the funding to provide insurance for the Mars Theatre,” Councilman Kenny Usher said.
Usher said the insurance appears to cost around $1,060, and the group is shopping around for coverage.
City Attorney Charles Barrow said he was unsure if it would be legally possible for the city to donate money to the SRC.
“That building is not owned by the city, as I understand it,” he said.
Usher said the building is not owned by the city, and the city would make a donation for the cost and the SRC would hold the insurance.
Barrow said that was what bothered him.
“You are prohibited from making gifts to anyone unless there is some sort of benefit back to the city,” he said.
Usher said he believes there will be a benefit to the city.
“Down the road it’s going to be a huge benefit to this city,” Usher said.
Ricky Kicklighter of the SRC told the council the group is a 501c3 and they appreciated the council’s support of the project.
“The direct benefit to the city and the county would be that you are establishing an active arts community and increasing the tourism and the economic base of the city. It is for arts entertainment and education through the school system,” Kicklighter said.
Barrow said if the city leased the property and was required in the lease to provide insurance it would be OK.
“Having heard what I’ve heard, it may be that you could just make a donation, since there could be some sort of benefit to the city,” Barrow said.
Usher said he is thinking of donations the city has made previously to organizations such as the Ferst Foundation.
Barrow said the city can make donations, as long as there is benefit to the city.
“You can’t just decide to give Joe Blow a thousand dollars just because he’s a good guy,” he said.
Barrow said he would like to research the issue further.
“Based on what I’ve heard here I could make an argument either way,” Barrow said. “I’m sure there’s a way to crack the nut — it’s just a question of doing it the right way.”
Kicklighter said the SRC would be happy to proceed in any way the council sees fit.
“Our main concern in our charter is to revitalize the city of Springfield economically and culturally,” he said. “That’s what we think this is really doing. We’ve worked so far hand in hand, so we’d love to have whatever you guys come up with.”