GARY PATULSKI: Manistee’s fine arts come with an exorbitant cost

TO THE EDITOR:

The benefits of arts in Manistee come with an exorbitant cost, which is seldom mentioned.

I have previously written about the massive subsidies paid to the Ramsdell Theater, which drained the city’s cash resources while essential city items were ignored.

I am happy to see that in the January and February Manistee City Council meetings and work sessions, many of the city’s financial issues were discussed. Fortunately, new city council member Roger Zielinski and mayor pro-tem James Smith are working hard to address the issues that they have inherited.

In January, Mike Terry, executive director of the Ramsdell Theater, reported that in order to make up the subsidy from the city, the theater would need to generate the $1.2 million in programming sales, which is unlikely.

He also stated he did not see the required donor base to support needed annual contributions. Also reported was the rent amounts paid by the Manistee Art Institute and Manistee Civic Players to the Ramsdell Theatre. Those rent amounts are pennies on the dollar as compared to the market value.

In February, the city council approved issuing $2.77 million of bonds to fund critical repairs to items including the city’s Maywood Water Tank, Sweetnam Pump Station and Riverbank Sewer Line. The bonds, which have a longer service period than the life of some of the repairs, will be repaid by city residents and businesses through additional increases in water and sewer rates.

The cost of these critical repairs, some known since 2008 and which have not been budgeted, have now increased hundreds of thousands of dollars. During this period when critical items went unrepaired, the arts however continued to be subsidized with available city cash funds.

The arts may serve a benefit to the community, but the City of Manistee, the residents and the taxpayers have and will continue to pay for them for a long time.

When the city’s available cash from future oil and gas earnings go to subsidize the Ramsdell, city residents and businesses will be forced to pay higher water and sewer rates to service new bonds which will fund the previously ignored critical essential city infrastructure items.

So when you think of the “benefit” of Manistee’s arts, remember the subsidies, look at the condition of the local roads, think of the increased critical repair costs, remember the new $2.77 million of bonds and don’t forget about the future water and sewer rate increases.

Many of the vocal supporters of Manistee’s arts don’t reside or own property in within the city limits and thus don’t share in the real cost of Manistee’s fine arts. I would like to believe these supporters are actually “supporting” the arts with financial contributions, but it is unlikely based on the reported annual donations.

Gary Patulski

Manistee property owner

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