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Chatfield Center for the Arts to get a facelift

Fri, Jun 6th, 2014
Posted in Chatfield Government

Governor Mark Dayton signed two bills on May 20 authorizing more than a billion dollars to be spent on projects across the state of Minnesota. The $200 million cash bill for construction projects includes $5,352,000 for the Chatfield Center for the Arts.

The once public school and auditorium turned arts center will undergo an updating of its electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, be newly furnished and equipped, and have additional amenities installed. These improvements are part of the long time vision of the Center’s ardent supporters, who are dedicated to the transformation of the historical buildings into a “modern regional arts center.” Many have volunteered their time and labor to make the Center a success. Potter Auditorium will be modernized to provide a more comfortable experience for audiences and will have state of the art technology installed to allow for a wider spectrum of programming.

Because of efforts of volunteers along with money, land and buildings that have been provided for the Center the state grant funding will not require local matching funds.

The buildings will be more accessible. Elevators will be installed in both the 1936 (Potter Auditorium) and 1916 buildings.

On Thursday, May 29, the city council, EDA, the Center’s non-profit group, and the Advisory Committee met together to learn the details of the grant and for discussion. City clerk Joel Young said the organization necessary to move forward is already in place, therefore, they are ready to hit the ground running. He noted that individuals involved sit on more than one committee or board which will increase communication and participation.

Young asked all involved groups to “step it up a notch.” The EDA will begin by working with DEED to secure a contract between DEED and the city/EDA. The money will go to the city of Chatfield EDA which will make the decisions involving the construction project.

The Chatfield EDA owns the Center and oversees its Advisory Committee which develops policy and rules. The non-profit group, Chatfield Center for the Arts, Inc. has been established for fund raising purposes and now also operates the Center. The Heritage Preservation Commission will provide advice on both interior and exterior renovation to maintain the historical integrity of the buildings and property. Young noted that about 1 percent of funding is budged for pre-design and ten percent for design and administration of the contract. Project management including inspections is expected to cost $186,000. About $4.65 million will be used for construction.


Mayor Russ Smith said the project will require “team work and trust.”

Councilor Robert Pederson asked if the city will keep providing funding for some of the operating costs. Young said while the EDA is the landlord, the Center is an asset belonging to the community. Councilor Paul Novotny compared the funding the city provides for the operation of the Center to the funding it provides for the operation and maintenance of the swimming pool.

Councilor Ken Jacobson admitted that a lot of people including himself were surprised to get the grant, especially without matching funds. Young maintained that this is a worthy project, not better than others, but just as worthy as others included in the bonding bill and construction bills. He continued that the city had the courage to hire a lobbyist and the tenacity to stay in the game.

Michael Martin, Heritage Preservation Commission, felt getting the grant was inevitable, “just a question of time.” He added that legislators believed in the people of Chatfield, in their ability to create a venue in southeast Minnesota. F. Mike Tuohy, Advisory Committee, reminisced about all the “fascinating changes” this community has undergone over the last 50 years (fire department, ambulance service, swimming pool, and play ground), adding it took a lot of work. Tuohy said we pull together as a community to get it done.

Randy Paulson, EDA, asked what can be done to get some people downtown on board, adding that some think the city and school won’t have to contribute.

Matthew Opat, member of the Advisory Committee, said one of the challenges will be to keep the Center open for business while construction is going on.

Tony Cole, Wit’s End Theatre, insisted once this project is done, the economic impact for this town will be incredible.

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