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Perkins Center Seeks Assistance from Township

Staff at Perkins Center for the Arts in Moorestown are asking for financial support from the township as they look ahead to future renovations.

With the  99 percent finished, staff there are asking for the township’s help to make further structural improvements to the historic buildings.

Executive director Alan Willoughby told township council about a number of improvements and upgrades needed at the 102-year-old Tudor Revival home and adjacent carriage house—both of which are on the state and national registry of historic buildings—including new roofs, more handicap accessibility, electrical rewiring, new lighting and repaving of the parking lot, among other things.

Willoughby said these improvements are “both necessary and critical to ensure the continued health and viability of the structures … and to ensure and enhance the historic integrity of this very special Moorestown asset.”

Key to getting these renovations off the ground, he said, is the creation of a preservation plan for the . To do that, Willoughby wants to hire a preservation specialist through the New Jersey Historic Trust.

“By developing that plan, that will allow us to go back to the Historic Trust with a much stronger case for the larger scale renovations that we feel are required,” said treasurer Paul .

Hiring the specialist and getting the preservation plan done costs money, of course, which is where the township comes in.

Willoughby said he’s in the process of applying for a Historic Site Management Grant, which provides a 3-to-1 matching grant, meaning for every $1 Perkins puts in, the state provides $3. It would be great, he said, if Perkins could get some, or all, of the match from the township.

Buttressing Perkins’ appeal is the fact that the township owns the property. The arts center, which is in the 13th year of a 25-year lease, pays the township $1 annually for the property.

Willoughby said he’s applying for a $45,000 grant, so a $15,000 contribution from the township—possibly from the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund—would cover the match.

Township manager Scott Carew was enthusiastic about the notion of the township providing some support for the project, saying, “Spending a little to get this done could result in hundreds of thousands in available grants.”

If Perkins had the match in hand by the time the application was submitted, it’d be that much more likely to receive the grant, according to Willoughby.

Though council was noncommittal Monday night, a few members expressed interest in supporting Perkins, including Mayor John Button and Councilman Chris Chiacchio.

“It’s township property,” said Chiacchio. “We have a responsibility to maintain it.”

Townie July 25, 2012 at 10:58 AM
With the changes in Arts funding in recent years, I appreciate it is very difficult to cover capital that never seem to slow in cost increases. I grew up watching movies in the summer on that lawn. Its an asset. Unlike swedes barn, Perkins is a going concern. They had 2011 revenue in excess of $1.1M. Roughly half of that was contributed, and half was program revenue. They have a board of trustees that should include as part of its mission generating support. If there was ever an easy way to raise money from supports it's to tell them their dollar is worth 4! That's the intention of the program. It most likely requires "new" money to recieve the match (you can't allocate general contributions...must be targeted for the purpose stated in the matching grant). A grant from town is the easy way out, and I applaud the idea of getting town to pay the deposit on the match.....but the idea of the program is to provide organizations an opportunity to create valuable programs of new revenue through development activities. Getting money from town is cheating. I don't feel town should cover the deposit. If Perkins is important to me, then I should support it directly. My tax dollars should not.
Tom July 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Perkins is a great asset to the community and is owned by the town and should be maintained the same as everything else which as I have come to learn that nothing is ever maintained. As I see it, the closing line of the post above is really an issue for all things. If (fill in the blank) ____________________ is important to me, then I should support it directly. My tax dollars should not. If that is the new standard then I would expect to read where the sports groups will pay 100% for fields, the library supporters will pay 100% for the library, the town hall groups will pay 100% for town hall, the families with kids will pay 100% for the schools, main street users will pay for the lights, roads will be paid for by the users, etc. Why not call for a referendum on all projects big and small and allow electronic voting to save time and money.
Ace July 25, 2012 at 12:48 PM
People just can't keep their eyes off that pot of money--the Open Space Fund. We need to amend those guidelines to lock it down. Having that fund with such loose guidelines is like putting a case of whiskey in the home of an alchoholic. And politicians are alchoholics when it comes to money. You can't trust them with it.
Townie July 25, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Tom, What does town own with regards to Perkins? The difference between Perkins and your other issues is governance. Perkins is run by an independent board. They set the compensation for the employees. The employees are not government workers. While an asset to the community, the community doesn't own it. Similar to the Community Center. The library, town hall, the fields are township property and are maintained (occasionally) by the taxpayers. No need for a referendum...it's coming in November. Vote for the candidates you feel will manage the library, town hall, fields appropriately and the majority will have their opinions favored for a few years.
Rob Scott (Editor) July 25, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Tom, I'm not supporting a course of action one way or the other, but here's my 2 cents: Calling for a referendum every time there's a project—big or small—that might cost tax dollars sort of negates the purpose of representative government, don't you think? We elect leaders—council members, school board, senators, assemblymen, etc.—to make decisions on our behalf, without having to come to us for permission every time. If they have to come to us every time they want to spend some money, what's the point of electing them and putting them in charge in the first place? Of course, elected leaders sometimes make decisions we don't like, and maybe we wish we hadn't voted for them or they had made a different decision. But that's the risk of representative democracy.
Observer July 25, 2012 at 02:04 PM
We just need one referendum to close to loop holes on the open space fund since nobody seems to know what its for, and maybe one for other funds that will inevitably lead to a fight like the utilities fund. Other than that, the referendum will have to be the ballot box for or against candidates (like Mr. Button)
Keith Omlor July 25, 2012 at 02:18 PM
The difference between Perkins and The Community House is that the townhip owns the land that Perkins is on. The township does not own the Community House property. The township does general maintenance at Perkins (cut grass and trim hedges along Kings Hwy) but that is it. I agree with Tom. This is another case of people only wanting to pay for what they use and that isnot what living in this community is all about.
Townie July 25, 2012 at 03:16 PM
The money they are asking for isn't for the township owned assets...its for the building. The building is owned by the NFP. The NFP has a board. It files 990's with the government. It's a different entity. It is not a taxpayer asset. Of course people only want to pay for what they use/like. I'm fine with paying my share for general improvements and maintenance, just not doing that on behalf of selected independent entities.
Patricia White July 25, 2012 at 05:05 PM
This is what puzzles me about Perkins' request. Town Council has just completed a months-long budget process. Apparently, Perkins did not come forward during that time with a request for funds so that those monies could be considered in finalizing the budget. Then, they appear at a Council meeting and some Councilpersons appear anxious to appease and ready to jump on board. Wait!! Don't we have several projects in the chute right now that we already can't afford? The same thing happened last year when the budget had just been finalized and the Appearance Committee showed up with a request for funds for Christmas decorations. Mayor Button was liaison to this committee -- didn't he inform them that the budget was being fine-tuned and they should get in line for money with all the other concerns? But no, it turns out that the decorations were approved (do we even have approval from PSE&G to hang them from their poles?) and several installments are being paid (to keep the payments under $20,000 which would require a majority vote from Council) and another program bumped (basketball) to free up these funds. Neither the Perkins nor the decorations qualify as emergency expenditures and, according to its lease, the Perkins may not qualify for funds in any case. For a Council that instructed Mr. Merchel and Mr. Carew to start looking under the sofa cushions for loose change a few meetings ago, they seem to lose focus as soon as someone appears at a meeting with their hat in hand.
BJs July 25, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Pat white is right. We cannot afford these projects right now. Live within your means. We seniors cannot afford it any more. Who is looking out for us?
Paul Canton III July 26, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Two corrections to a couple of the comments: 1.) The Perkins House is owned by Moorestown Township. Perkins leases it from them. It is designated on the National Historic Register, and is located in Open Space owned by Moorestown Township. 2.) The opportunity for the Matching Grant from the NJ Historic Trust just came up recently, so neither the Perkins Board, nor the Town Council anticipated the need for the matching funds. We, Perkins, felt it was such a good opportunity, that we approached Council to see if there were appropriate funds available through the township, that might help us seize this deal which is a 3-1 Grant for Planning. This Grant will allow us to go for much larger matching grants in the future, thereby sparing funds from local individuals and local taxpayers, and allowing Perkins' board to continue its fundraising efforts with more focus on our mission as a Center for the Arts to improve our programs, offer scholarship programs for children of underprivileged circumstances, etc. Paul Canton III, Perkins Center for the Arts Board Member and Treasurer
Ed Nice July 26, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Paul nice job. Unlike Townie I support Perkins and your efforts to get some of Perkins' supporters tax dollars back from the Historic Preservation eligible use of OS fund. You pay the tax so why shouldn't you get to use it for what you intended it for.
Yah Mo B There July 26, 2012 at 05:14 PM
what about young families? and anyone else for that matter. it's not as if everyone under the age og 65 is coasting. I understand everyone has a different situation, but stop looking to govt at any level to solve your problems. Alot of us are tight
Townie July 26, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Ed. Do you ever post a comment without your agenda front and center? It's so painfully boring. I support Perkins. I've served other arts organizations in the area since the early 90's as a board member and volunteer. What I don't support is the direct, targeted funding of legal entities through direct tax dollar grants. I actually had typed a response earlier to Paul, and then deleted it. His comments about continuing fundraising with more focus on their mission is a bit concerning. I assume the building helps in delivering that mission. If not, then why keep it. Give it back to town and let us fix it (since we own it). Maybe Perkins should take up space in a less expensive building and rent space to deliver programs to needy kids (I would have avoided such a cliche...but so be it). Maybe they'll leave the Perkins House and we can put some of the displaced town hall personnel in there? Unlike you Ed, I see tax dollars as something that funds necessary services to the community. It's not a deposit account for when you want to fund something. Noone gets to "intend" their taxes for anything? That attitude explains your OS position completely. It's not your intentions that matter....it's the majorities. Do I want Perkins to get the matching funds? Absolutely. I just want the Board to raise the money themselves. They raised almost $600k last year...surely they can find $15k more for such a worthy cause.
Tom July 26, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I don't always agree with Ed Nice but at least he makes the attempt to provide facts to help the discussions as colorful as they can be at times. I am not sure how you can say that if he supports the open space fund for all of its stated purposes that means he has an agenda. Quite the opposite is true as he is stating he represents everyone and not one group over another. That's hardly an agenda. If more people were interested in actually solving problems and sharing, we wouldn't have as many issues. If Mr. Canton or Ed or PREIT for that matter pays his open space taxes, why is it wrong for any of them to want it used for what they want in accordance with what is allowed (subject to the lawsuit)?

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