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City delays action on request for theater funding

Former Cairo mayor Richard VanLandingham made good on a pledge this week to donate $4,000 to the Zebulon Theater’s digital conversion project and on Monday he delivered the check to Bert Wind, chairman of the Regional Community Center board of directors, which owns and manages the community theater.
VanLandingham’s donation comes on the heels of a decision by the Grady County Commission last week to appropriate $4,000 to the Zebulon.
On Monday night, Wind and Lequitta LeGette appeared before the Cairo City Council requesting a $4,000 appropriation from the city.
“We have a unique opportunity to finish off the digital conversion project,” Wind said.
According to the RCC board chairman, with a $4,000 investment from the city, the board would combine that with VanLandingham’s donation and the investment from the county to pay off a short-term loan taken out to purchase the new state-of-the-art digital projection system.
Wind said that with the public investments in the theater, the RCC board would be able to use its capital for other necessary improvements including the replacement of side curtains, acoustical materials and to pay for electric upgrades to the facility.
After more than six months of fundraising, the Zebulon was approximately $12,000 short of what was necessary to purchase the new digital equipment. The RCC board used the short-term loan to finance the difference and to place the order for the new equipment, which is expected to be delivered in April.
“We have the unique opportunity to keep the Zebulon Theater running and to tie it to other downtown oriented events,” Wind said.
The RCC board has plans for some upcoming free events to benefit the community.
This weekend, the theater is hosting the Syrupcity Players’ production of “On Golden Pond.”
Wind said that the number of copies of first release movies on film are practically nonexistent now, so for the next several weeks there may not be a movie shown at the Zebulon.
Mrs. LeGette not only urged the city council to make the investment of money in the Zebulon, but she also encouraged the city officials to support the theater with their attendance at movies and other productions at the theater.
“A lot of small towns would love to have a theater. We’ve got it, and we’ve got to build on what we have to be able to keep it,” she said.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas voiced his opposition to the former mayor or the county commission committing the city to anything.
When asked by Mayor Bobby Burns if the council wished to take action on the request Monday night, Councilman Douglas replied, “I don’t.”
A motion was then made and seconded to table the request until the next meeting.
City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman questioned how the county was investing in the theater without a contract.
“A local government can’t give money to anybody. It is only proper through a contract to transfer funds for services or an event the city is involved in. If you do this, you need to have a contract with the agency (the RCC board) so that it is properly used and accounted for. That is the rule. Elected bodies just do not give away public money,” Lehman said.
He added, “We could work something out, but there is a proper way to do it.”

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