By Jesse Wood
Feb. 4, 2014. At Monday’s meeting, the Town of Boone’s Cultural Resources Advisory Board (CRAB) passed a motion to give Southern Appalachian Historical Association (SAHA) additional time to figure out a plan to repair – rather than the demolish – “Horn in the West” drama facilities.
This is an extension on top of another extension. In December, Boone Town Council agreed to pass a 60-day extension of the current, short-term license agreement along with rescinding a vote to allocate $20,000 to demolish structures at Horn in the West. The extension was set to expire at the end of February, while SAHA has yet to come up with a plan.
With the motion passed on Monday, CRAB extended the license agreement by another 45 days and now SAHA must draft a list – due to town staff by Feb. 24 – that details the association’s proposed improvements along with a timeline and financing of those repairs. The Feb. 24 deadline allows CRAB to meet and make a recommendation to the Boone Town Council before the council’s March meeting.
“If they don’t meet those requirements, so be it,” CRAB Chair Frank Mohler said, adding that he was inclined to give him SAHA one more opportunity because, for one, the organization has new leadership on the board that is more business orientated as opposed to art oriented.
“Let’s face it, this is a business not just an art form,” Mohler said.
Cultural Resources Director Pilar Fotta is ready to begin working on drafting a longer-term license agreement but can’t necessarily begin because whatever SAHA ends up doing will affect the other areas of the license agreement involving other stakeholders of the property such as the Watauga County Farmers’ Market and the paid-parking lot controlled by the Town of Boone. Fotta also mentioned that other groups have inquired about the space, but she can’t give any definitive answers while the “Horn in the West” situation is in limbo.
Fotta mentioned that town staff and new board members of SAHA met last week. She mentioned that the SAHA board heard from a structural engineer with the firm Taylor & Viola that essentially confirmed analysis of the structures by staff of the town’s Planning and Inspections department, which initially deemed the structures unsafe for the public.
“Obviously they didn’t get the report they were expecting to get,” CRAB member and SAHA supporter Billy Ralph Winkler said.
Even with the unfortunate report for SAHA and “Horn in the West,” Mohler mentioned that members of SAHA’s board said, “There will be a show one way or another [but] it may not be like it used to be.”
Another CRAB member questioned how SAHA and “Horn in the West” could finance, for example, a new roof which would cost about $50,000 – even if some of the $20,000 initially allocated for the demolition is allowed by the Boone Town Council to be used towards improvements for the show to go on.
Winkler mentioned that it’s been done in the past in recounting the story of SAHA raising $50,000 in the early ’90s to rewire a huge section at “Horn in the West.”
“Their balance sheet is as good if not better than ever before,” Winkler said. “If they had to come up with a million dollars, no, but they have a track record of always being able to find a way.”