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Controversy Over Pack Place Contract

Pack Place is home to some of Asheville's best known cultural and educational venues from the Diana Wortham Theater to the Asheville Art museum and Colburn Earth and Science museum. But now two longtime city leaders are at odds if Pack Place's Board of Directors which manages the property should go. City leaders want to take over all leasing agreements with each entity and draw up direct leases rather than having the board as a middleman. Longtime Board Director and former Asheville Councilman Ed Hay disputes current claims.

The allegations that we have not properly maintained the building are simply not so, said Hay.

In a letter dated January 27th Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson addressed the board saying in part

"repairs and maintenance have been neglected by Pack Place (Board) for years.

"The city of Asheville plans to prioritize the work."

"Please make payment to the city within 60 days of $419,800 to fund priorities one and two.

"Failure to make payment...will be considered default by Pack Place.

City leaders including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer say they want to dissolve the current operational management of Pack Place by the Board saying members haven't been doing their job to maintain the building as needed.

I think what we're seeing is that is not a highly functional system anymore, said Mainheimer. That the property management is not happening, that the building has been neglected.

We built the building and we have run it for 22 years, said Ed Hay, Director of the Pack Place Board.

There are issues that have to be addressed but that is part of owning and operating a building.

Since the beginning Hay says millions in private donations built the Pack Place building, a total of sixteen million dollars Hay said with money set aside for endowment for building repairs.

At issue are questions if the board has ongoing funding left to cover long term repairs. The Board, Hay said, has money already ear-marked for priority one a $153,000 roof repair. On a list for improvement plans set out by the Board Priority two improvements include $266,000 for a new air conditioning and heating system estimated.

Manheimer says two years ago the city had to step up with a quarter million dollars for an AC unit for the building.

If that's going to be the scenario then the city has an obligation to be the direct manager of the property, said Manheimer.

But Board director Hay alleges the board does have the funds for repairs and appears to be preparing for a legal battle to maintain building control.

I would like the public to know that the Pack Place board of directors has spent a lot of time and a lot of energy trying to do exactly what the city is accusing us of not doing, said Hay. Which is to properly maintain the building, and plan for the future.

City leaders wrote the letter as the beginning of what appears to be legal groundwork to try and demonstrate the Pack Place board is in violation of the lease agreement signed in 2004. The Board has the right to renew the lease agreement this May unless the city can prove violations. City leaders are looking to dissolve the lease and have the city assume oversight and budgeting of repair and maintenance costs for the facility the city already owns.

By Kimberly King
Follow Kim on Twitter @KimKingReports


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