By CAROLINE MURRAY
JOHNSTOWN -- Fulton County is on track to sponsor a building project headed by the Lexington Center Foundation that would create jobs, entice an eclectic mix of community members and bring the arts center stage.
At a Fulton County Economic Development and Environment Committee meeting Thursday, Lexington Foundation Executive Director Wally Hart presented the foundation's tentative plan to build a community art center that would include a theater, art gallery, classrooms, a black box performance space and cafe for all community members to enjoy.
A Southern Adirondack arts and family retreat center is the foundation's vision, but cannot obtain New York State Housing and Community Renewal Funding -- a state grant created for community related projects -- without municipal sponsorship.
The committee unanimously approved the sponsorship and agreed to draw up a resolution for Monday's Board of Supervisors meeting, but not before fleshing out the details first.
The foundation is working with Orion Management Company's grant writer Nick Zabawsky, who helped Hart explain the county's role in the grant process.
According to both Hart and Zabawsky, the county would apply through the state's Regional Economic Development Consolidated Funding Application process for funding and Lexington would be the sub-recipient of the grant.
"Basically the county is the applicant for this funding and is responsible for administrating the grant and making sure all the rules and regulations go as follows," Zabawsky said.
As a part of the grant, the county would also ensure the facility continues to operates as it is intended and serves 51 percent or more low to middle class income people, or the special needs population, for a period of five years.
County administrator Jon Stead said the board rarely sponsors projects for not-for-profit organizations. He said the project seems to promise economic development opportunities, but wanted to know how much money and administrative work the county would have to commit to.
Zabawsky said the project needs no funds from the county and added that $18,000 is built into the grant for administration program delivery.
"Barring any unforeseen problems, it should be at no cost to the county," Zabawsky said.
Zabawsky said since the grant would flow through county books, an audit might be in store.
However, Zabawsky was adamant he would take care of the grant paperwork and the seeker process.
Hart admitted the project was still in its infancy.
He said the CFA application will not be accepted without securing a piece of property first. The foundation is still hunting for a site before the application process closes June 30.
Hart said the foundation has looked at 25 different sites throughout Fulton County and already had one deal fall through. He would not disclose where he is looking specifically, however he expects to land a site within the next couple weeks.
He said the center's original concept was to construct a 10,000 square-foot building that caters to an array of arts programs such as poetry, dance, theater and culinary arts.
The Lexington Foundation is an affiliate of the Lexington Center located on East State Street in Gloversville, which supports men and women with developmental disabilities.
Hart said the tentative arts center is not exclusive for people with special needs, but would be open to all community members.
Hart estimated the project would cost between $2-3 million and create about 25 new jobs.
The facility would be named the Paul Nigar Center for the Creative Arts, after Lexington's first executive director, who passed away from ALS. Hart said Nigar strongly advocated for men and women with disabilities. Nigar recognized their artistic talents and helped them reach their creative goals, he said.
"He looked at people and said 'what are your dreams ... what do you want to do in life?'" Hart said.
He said the foundation's goal is to open by June 2015. Hart said he believes the state will award the grant this October, but until then, all construction for the project is on standby.
The board of supervisors is expected to vote on a resolution in support of the project on Monday and a public hearing will follow.
Gloversville 4th Ward Alderman and committee member Charlie Potter was in support of the project.
Potter said the prospective arts center is a resource that would keep residents in Fulton County.
"If we don't continue in these kind of cultural community investments to retain people who live here... that would be our responsibility," Potter said. "That's what people want ... they want something to do."