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In reversal, commissioners postpone Playhouse discussion

County commissioners Bill O'Connor, Tommy Thompson and Charlie Messer discuss Flat Rock Playhouse last week. County commissioners Bill O'Connor, Tommy Thompson and Charlie Messer discuss Flat Rock Playhouse last week.

In a reversal from their stated intention to discuss the Flat Rock Playhouse and potentially withdraw financial support at their next meeting, Henderson County commissioners have postponed the discussion until January.

The board's decision was announced in a news release Wednesday afternoon sent out by the county's public relations office, which reports to County Manager Steve Wyatt. Wyatt took the unusual step of expressing the "crystal clear" view that "each and every member of the Board desires to see the Playhouse not only survive, but thrive." However, he added, board members "must be comfortable with any investment of these dollars."

The commissioners voted 4-1 last week to withdraw the next installment of $25,000, scheduled in January, of a $100,000 appropriation the board allocated to the Playhouse last spring when it adopted the 2012-13 budget.

The decision by the commissioners brought a rare bit of good news for the Playhouse, which has been continually battered in public by speakers at the Board of Commissioners meeting, the commissioners and the county's Tourism Development Authority, which is appointed by commissioners.

The TDA on Tuesday rejected a request to buy $25,000 worth of Playhouse tickets that hotels could use as promotions to fill rooms. The discussion of the Playhouse prompted Hendersonville City Manager Bo Ferguson to warn members against a negative tone about an organization that sells 90,000 tickets a year and draws thousands of visitors to the Hendersonville area.
"After consulting with members of the Board, the decision has been made to schedule a discussion and possible Board action for the January 7, 2013, meeting rather than the December 3rd meeting," Wyatt said in the news release. "The postponement gives the Board time to evaluate ongoing developments regarding the issues related to the Playhouse and it gives the Board, staff, and patrons of the Playhouse the ability to focus on their year end fund raising efforts as well as the production of their performances.
"Let me be crystal clear regarding the discussion I have had with Commissioners regarding this issue; each and every member of the Board desires to see the Playhouse not only survive, but thrive. However, as the elected body responsible for oversight of the expenditure of county tax dollars, they must be comfortable with any investment of these dollars, both short and long term. Going forward there are questions regarding the matter that will be asked of the Playhouse board and discussed by the Commissioners. The forum for that discussion is now set for January 7th."

"We invite interested members of the public to attend the January 7, 2013 Board meeting. The meeting will be held on the second floor of the Historic Courthouse in the Board of Commissioners' Meeting Room beginning at 5:30 p.m."