ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- St. Albans City Council agreed to continue a lease agreement for the Alban Arts & Conference Center and bade farewell to council veteran Helen Warren in a brief, action-packed meeting.
The Alban center is owned by STARDA, which is a partnership among the city, the St. Albans Regional Development Authority and the Friends of the Alban.
Councilman Stephen Donelson, whose term ends June 30, said he is not against the Alban center but is against "using taxpayer money and not accounting for that money.
"The original lease, in 2008, was for one year," he said. "We have not renewed that lease, ever. Originally, the theater was to be self-sufficient in 18 months. It is five years later. They're still not self-sufficient. The city is putting about $39,000 a year into it. I asked, 'When will it be self-sufficient?' The answer I got is, 'It'll be a few more years.' "
Councilman John Boles Jr. said, "You have to have a magnet. That magnet is the Alban Theater. This facility draws people into the city. They spend money — they eat, they shop. I would say this is an ongoing lease. The residuals we get from that far outweigh what we put into the Alban.
"In my estimation, the Alban Theater is a driving force for revitalization of downtown."
Councilman Robert Keiffer, a real estate agent, said, "People are always commenting and bragging about the Alban and the arts center and how they like it and what their children have done there."
Councilwoman Warren said the Alban "is another avenue where we're spending tax dollars for our citizens. The Alban is another area that gives people something to do."
Joseph Bradford, 13, a member of the audience, received permission to speak. Bradford said the Alban gave him a place to go and something to do. He said he has made new friends there.
Bradford received a round of applause for his comments.
Donelson repeated, "I'm not against the Alban Theater. It's a business and it's not making enough money to cover its own bills. How long are you going to finance it? If this committee wants to finance it for the rest of eternity, that's fine. But I want an accounting for that money. And I asked for a vote. Do we want to continue? When is it going to become self-sufficient?"
In a roll call vote, only Donelson and Councilwoman Cheryl Thomas voted to end the lease. Voting to continue it were Councilmen Bowles, Keiffer, Lee Roberts, Dan Cain Sr., Desper Lemon, Jerry Cogar, Kevin Pennington and Ronald Colby, and Councilwomen Warren and Loretta Griffith.
In other action, Mayor Dick Callaway presented Warren with an embroidered blanket and thanked her for her nearly 40 years of service on council.
"It's a big step," Warren said of her decision not to seek another term. "I just want to thank people for voting for me all of those years."