Seeks support from town budget, lodging tax advisory group
The Winthrop Auditorium Association, the nonprofit organization that operates the Winthrop Barn, has come up with a list of needed improvements to the popular meeting and events facility.
The Barn is owned by the Town of Winthrop, which concluded lengthy negotiations with the Auditorium Association for a new operating contract a couple of months ago.
The association’s president, Rick Northcott, a former Winthrop mayor and longtime Town Council member, provided the improvements list to current Mayor Sally Ranzau. Both Northcott and Ranzau said there are currently no dollar amounts attached to the 21 projects on the Auditorium Association’s list, and no town budget appropriations to pay for them.
But Northcott said in an interview last week that he wanted town officials to be aware of the Winthrop Barn’s needs because “it’s their building … and their responsibility.” He said the association is working to come up some cost estimates to attach to the projects, and is consulting with local contractors and professionals to get accurate estimates.
Ranzau said in an interview that she appreciated the association’s prioritizing of needs. She noted that the building’s interior lighting has recently been upgraded.
Northcott said the projects list has been under development by the Auditorium Association board for some time, and were recently prioritized. “Almost all of them are infrastructure,” Northcott said.
The association will ask the town’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations about how to spend funds generated by local hotel/motel occupancy taxes, to consider supporting some of the projects, Northcott said. The hotel/motel taxes must be devoted to supporting tourism-related activities.
The Auditorium Association was also a beneficiary of the estate of the late Red McComb and has some funds available that it could devote to improvements, Northcott said. “It can be spent on anything we want,” he said.
Top priority: generator
The No. 1 priority on the association’s list, Northcott said, is replacement of The Barn’s emergency backup generator. The existing 25-kilowatt generator only supplies part of the building’s electrical needs. Because it can be used as an emergency shelter, Northcott said, “We need a big enough generator to keep the barn heated and serve meals if we have to.” A 50Kw generator “would take care of everything,” he said.
In the auditorium association’s memo to the town, Northcott noted that “the current generator is not on any type of maintenance program and doesn’t always start up and run properly.”
Also high on the Auditorium Association’s list: Wi-Fi access and big-screen monitors in the Hen House meeting room; and a surveillance system to discourage break-ins.
Other items on the association’s list: replacing the front entry floor; upgrading the swamp coolers or replacing them with air conditioning; bathroom plumbing upgrades; painting both the interior and exterior; updated security locks; electrical upgrades in the kitchen; improved lighting and sound systems for the stage; new refrigerators and freezers; improved interior and exterior lighting; an improved event sign; new ceiling tiles; new carpeting or flooring in the balcony; and rebuilding the stage level to make it more audience-friendly and workable for performers.
Northcott said the association is planning to ask organizations and businesses that use the barn for a meeting “to get a conversation going about what they need and would like to see.”
“We could work together to make it a better event center,” he said.
Community partnerships could help generate support for some of the needed improvements, Northcott said. And longer term, he said, a desirable project would be to expand the building to add dressing rooms and more storage areas behind the stage.