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Lease proposal would relieve Greensburg of upkeep costs on civic center

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Greensburg would be absolved of potential improvement, repair or maintenance costs for the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center under a proposed lease being discussed, city officials said.

A prominent foundation would take more of a lead role in operating the building on New Salem Road.

During a meeting Monday, city council is expected to vote on leasing the center to the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation for $20 annually. The proposed lease would run for 20 years, with renewal options for up to 99 years, city officials said.

Under the proposal, the foundation would take a more active role in overseeing the building, and the city would not have to pay costs for items such as paving parking lots or roof repairs, city solicitor Bernard McArdle said.

The agreement should not affect the plays, musicals and other cultural or community activities offered in the center, which has multiple meeting areas and a 320-seat auditorium, city and foundation officials said.

“With this new lease, the maintenance work would be turned over to the (foundation), which will help us a lot,” Mayor Ron Silvis said.

He said he likes the agreement because the building was built by philanthropist Katherine Mabis McKenna and donated in 1969 to the city as a memorial to her son, Mennel M. Smith.

“That's a McKenna building,” Silvis said. “I have no problem with turning it back … to the McKenna family.”

Council spoke with McArdle about the proposed lease during a closed-door meeting this week.

Linda McKenna Boxx, chairwoman of the foundation's board, described the lease as bringing her group “more to the forefront” in operating the building.

The foundation is glad to have the lease, especially considering how the building came into being, she said.

Foundation officials are working on an agreement with the Westmoreland Cultural Trust to manage the facility, Boxx said. The trust managed the building under an earlier lease.

“I don't think the public is going to sense any changes,” Boxx said.

The city cannot sell the property because of deed restrictions, city administrator Sue Trout said.

Council was concerned the city could be put in the position of making costly improvements, Trout said.

City officials were unable to immediately supply expense figures for the building.

“I did not want the city and taxpayers to take on maintenance for a building we get no revenue on,” Trout said.

Michael Langer, cultural trust president, said he anticipates no problems reaching a management agreement with the foundation.

He expressed confidence that patrons will see no changes.

“Nothing will be seen as different when we're done with this,” he said. “The three partners are still in place, with slightly altered roles.”

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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