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Millwald marquee under evaluation

Millwald marquee under evaluation

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Millwald Theatre

Wytheville’s Millwald Theater is looking a bit different these days, and that’s a good thing. Kinsey Sign & Neon Co. recently removed the building’s iconic marquee and carried it to company headquarters in Roanoke for evaluation and storage.

Members of Millwald Theatre Inc. will likely restore or replicate the marquee once the sign experts determine its condition. Meanwhile, the group is busy completing grant applications and planning fundraisers.

“The project is making great progress on many fronts which are not so visible,” said Mark Bloomfield, board chairman of MTI, a nonprofit established to purchase the building, oversee the theatre’s restoration and operate the facility once the restoration is complete.

Once renovated the theatre will the crown jewel of downtown Wytheville.

According to Bloomfield, funding for the project is dependent on the marriage of several sources including government grants, tax credits and local fundraising.

During Monday’s Wytheville Town Council meeting, council members approved a resolution required for MTI to apply for Industrial Revitalization Grant Funds administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. The IRF provides up to $600,000 in grant funds to assist in the redevelopment of vacant or deteriorated industrial or commercial properties. Eligible projects include old retail stores, manufacturing facilities, hotels and theatres.

So far, MTI has been awarded $710,000 in grants. The last construction estimate for the theatre renovation was $3.1 million. The IRF application has been submitted and officials hope an award will be announced sometime in the fall. In addition, the project has been approved for federal and state historic tax credit.

Bloomfield said the Virginia Department of Historic Resources has approved Phase I of the project’s plan review, and is now working on Phase II.

“Millwald architects and engineers are working on some minor design modifications requested by DNR to ensure historic relevance is maintained,” Bloomfield said in an email. “Final designs should be completed by the end of August. From a design perspective, the project should be ready for competitive bid by the end of September.”

Passers-by may see more activity in August or early September as Cardo Company has been awarded a separate contract for lead paint and asbestos abatement, he added.

The theatre’s board of directors plans to soon begin a capital campaign to raise funds locally.

“We only need for a couple of more pieces to come together for us to be in full construction mode by January 2021, and with an expected completion date of early 2022. It has been a long time coming and I am proud of the town government and the community at large for its continued support,” Bloomfield said.

For more information about the Millwald restoration, visit online at www.millwald.org.

In other business, the Town Council:

● Dispensed with the Council Personnel Committee in favor of employee comment boxes. In a report to the board, Vice-Mayor Cathy Pattison said the committee was established a number of years ago to be a conduit for communication between employees and Council members. The committee was made up of alternating Council members, the town manager and selected employees who met regularly to provide employees a mechanism to voice concerns, suggestions, thoughts or gratitude relative to their work environment.

A number of matters important to employees were evaluation through the process, Pattison said, adding that the Council evaluated the forum and suggests that an employee comment box located in each department may be an improved mechanism for employees to express themselves to the Council.

“The comments may be anonymous, or may be signed, and can involve any aspect of the employee experience,” Pattison said. “The comments will be collected on a regular basis and evaluated by the Budget and Finance and Public Works Committees,” Pattison said.

A Council response to each comment will be made available to employees.

“We look forward to hearing the comments of our employees, and we hope that this will be a less intimidating way for them to express employment-related issues,” Pattison said.

● Agreed to impose a minimum $50 fee to property owners who do not keep their property mowed. The fee is already in the Town Code, but town officials have not charged it in the past. Previously, when the Town mowed a property that is in violation of the town ordinance regarding mowing, the cost has been assessed to the property owner. Historically, the work has been contracted to a private entity, and the costs have been reasonable, Vice Mayor Cathy Pattison told the Council. The Town pursued recouping only the actual cost of mowing and did not imposed penalties.

“This low cost has caused many property owners to shirk their responsibility under the ordinance and to merely let the Town mow their properties. As of the next mowing cycle, the Town will impose the minimum penalty of $50, in addition to the cost of the mowing” Pattison said. “We hope that this will provide a financial incentive for property owners to assume responsibility for the maintenance of their properties.”

To reach Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com.

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