EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


July 23, 2013

City mulls cut to hall fees

Group says it can't afford $5,500 cost

HAVERHILL — The show will go on — probably.

Mayor James Fiorentini said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the city can find a way to reduce the roughly $5,500 it is expected to cost a local theater company to use City Hall’s Nicholas J. Ross Auditorium this fall.

Spotlight Playhouse, a Haverhill-based nonprofit community theater company that rehearses and performs exclusively in the city, wants to rent the auditorium for its October production of “Lend Me a Tenor.”

But the troupe cannot afford the estimated $5,500 in city fees and other charges for five shows that would take place on two consecutive weekends.

The fees include $1,280 to rent the auditorium, $2,325 for a custodian, and at least $1,845 for separate police and firefighter details, according to a breakdown of the cost provided by Scott Helmers, president of the theater company.

The theater company has asked the mayor and City Council to waive or reduce the fees. Councilors were receptive to the request when it came before them for the first time two weeks ago, and they are scheduled to consider the matter again tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Fiorentini said he and police Chief Alan DeNaro met with Helmers last week and that they are trying to figure out ways to make the venue less expensive. The mayor said some of the fees can be reduced, but not all of them.

For instance, he said the council can waive the $20 per hour general rental fee by a total of $250, but not more than that. Also, the police chief can waive the requirement that a police officer and a firefighter be present whenever the auditorium is being used by a private group for a public event, the mayor said.

“We are confident we can give them some relief and find a way to make it happen,” the mayor said of the troupe’s desire to use the auditorium for five shows in October. “But we are probably going to need at least another week to work out the details.”

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