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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Bethel talks Cultural District and new $50,000 grant

By Autumn Schanil - staff writer

WHITE LAKE — Last Wednesday night, the Bethel Town Board voted in favor of creating a Bethel Cultural District Review/Exploratory Committee.
Before discussions began, Town Supervisor, Dan Sturm, began with saying, “Over the years we have thought many times and had many discussions about perhaps creating a Cultural District in the town of Bethel.”
According to online sources, a Cultural District is “traditionally conceived as a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a settlement in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor of attraction.” Meaning an area where you can find museums, galleries, arts-related shops, artist studios, performance spaces, gardens and libraries, music or media production studios along with office and retail buildings, and even residential homes. In order for an area to become known as a cultural district it would require the collaboration between the local community and that of the arts. Definitions also state that, “Cultural districts can help strengthen local economies, create an enhanced sense of place, and deepen local cultural capacity.

The Bethel Town Board is putting in place what is called the Bethel Cultural District Exploratory Committee to begin the discussion about the possible establishment of the district. Sturm, invited Chair of the Planning Board, Dan Gettel, along with Grant Writer Chris Cunningham, to join him on the committee. He also asked the CEO of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Darlene Fedun, Sullivan County Planning Commissioner Freda Eisenberg, Sullivan Renaissance Executive Director Peter Gozza, Executive Director of the IDA Steve White and Bethel Woods Trustee Steve Martin.
According to Sturm, the purpose of the Exploratory Committee would be to, “First, establish a purpose or intent for the district. Second, to find a proposed geographic area of focus. And third, research other successful models; what are the costs, what are the benefits, what are the incentives and impacts to the community.”
The board wants to make sure that in establishing a Cultural District that it would have a positive impact such as helping in unifying the community, businesses and organizations in the area as well as the goal of revitalizing the community.
Sturm ended the discussion by saying, “Our goals over the years have always been, and continue to be to focus on farming, businesses and tourism. Anything that we consider in regards to the district will be in support of and in addition to these objectives that we currently strive for. We simply want to improve what we have.”
Shortly afterward, the Town Board, turned their attention to the renovations that are needed for the Senior Center and the Justice Court.
The town recently received a $50,000 grant from Senator Bonacic to repair and improve both buildings. Unfortunately, according to Sturm, each building has about $50,000 worth of renovations that would need to be done. Therefore they would need to split the grant between both buildings and possibly cut back on a few renovations that aren't as important as others.
Examples of repairs needed by the Justice Court include: a new roof, new windows, the replacement of three exterior doors, their frames, trim, and a change of locks, replacement of the handicapped railing, new hardy plank siding all around, paint and patching of the existing cement wall.
The Senior Center needs a new roof as well, plus complete replacement of ceiling tiles, floor tiles in the main rooms, new kitchen cabinets; a range hood with a fire suppression system, and a new gas stove.
Assuming that repairs are going to cost more than the awarded $50,000, Sturm proposed using money from the Building Reserve Fund, set up in 1988. The fund contains about $180,000 specifically for building repairs.
The town hopes for all repairs to be finished by August 1, of this year.

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