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Irwin Council considers loan for Lamp Theatre

| Thursday, March 14, 2013, 2:21 p.m.

Irwin Council plans to apply for a $150,000 loan to help refurbish the Lamp Theatre.

The loan would cover the borough's portion of the estimated $650,000 needed to refurbish the theater, which is located on Main Street. The state and Westmoreland County plan to contribute the remaining $500,000 for the project, according to manager Mary Benko.

“Council is very committed to the economic redevelopment of our downtown, and the Lamp Theatre is a part of that,” Benko said.

Although borough officials plan to apply for the loan, Benko said, they would not have to accept it until council discusses it and takes a final vote. The process will determine if the borough is eligible for the loan, she said.

Council President John Cassandro said the loan would help move the project along after it stalled out last year, when the Westmoreland Cultural Trust reported project bids came in too high.

“We weren't expecting bids to come in $300,000 over our budget,” Cassandro said. “But we're worried if we don't move, that state and county funding may not be there much longer.”

The rest of the funding comes from grants through the Westmoreland County Department of Community and Economic Development.

Cassandro said council plans to continue exploring the possibility of purchasing the 72-year-old structure, which would make the borough the sole owner of the theater. In January, council ordered an appraisal of the property but has not discussed it publicly.

According to the Westmoreland County Property Assessment website, the Lamp Theatre has an assessed value of $35,140. Currently, the Westmoreland Cultural Trust, a nonprofit organization that owns the Lamp, pays no taxes on the theater.

“I don't think putting all this money into a theater, without us owning it, is even an option right now,” Cassandro said. “But at this point, we're working on several fronts, such as financing, the acquisition of the building and the beginnings of operating a theater.

“But none of that may even happen. We're just looking into these things.”

If the borough were to purchase the Lamp Theatre, Cassandro said, its day-to-day operating costs would be handled through fundraisers, not taxpayer dollars.

Borough officials discussed purchasing the Lamp Theatre with members of the Westmoreland Cultural Trust but have not drafted a purchasing agreement, Cassandro said.

Council plans to hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. March 20 in the public-works building, 1 First St., to discuss real estate, personnel and general borough business.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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