This is going to sound familiar to many of you, and that’s because it is. Last year, we were informed of a new unified leasing policy for all government-owned facilities in Athens-Clarke County. The new initiative was slated to raise our annual rent from $1/year to $25,345. Even with a potential grant discount down to $4,619 a year, as an all-volunteer non-profit organization, we would be hard-pressed to make this payment. This new lease would negate our long-standing agreement with the city (initiated in 1968 when the building was gifted by William A. Mathis); originally there was no lease at all, and the building was free for the Players to use as long as we continued producing theater, and then in 1998 we were asked to enter into a formal lease agreement as a “formality” at a rate of $1/year for use of the building.
Due to both overwhelming community pushback to this policy and, perhaps, the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor and commission elected to table the decision until the end of this year. Well, we blinked and it’s the end of the year: the commission is meeting Tuesday night, December 7th, 2021, at 6:00 pm to discuss whether our “community benefits agreement” is sufficient to justify the continuation of our current lease arrangement. If the mayor and commission do not agree to honor our 50+ year agreement, there is a real danger that Town & Gown Players will no longer be able to afford continued operations.
We are humbly asking, once again, if you love and support Town & Gown, that you contact the mayor and/or your commissioner to express your support for our unique leasing situation and the theater’s long-standing service to the Athens-Clarke County community. (Find your commissioner here, and get their contact information here. Alternatively, you can reach out directly to Mayor Kelly Girtz.)
This is a busy time of year for everyone (us, too; we apologize for not sending this out earlier!), and we wouldn’t ask for you to do this right now if it wasn’t really, really important. The future of Town & Gown is at stake. Please, if you live in Athens-Clarke County, let your elected officials know that this is about a lot more than the building at 115 Grady Avenue. This is about past promises, about history, and about the years of hard work our organization has poured into the community. We just want to continue our mission.