Town leaders agree on one thing – it would be nice if more people used the Halle Cultural Arts Center.
But just how and why they should use it is where the disagreements begin.
Town council recently directed the Apex Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Commission to find ways to better utilize the facility.
Councilman Bill Jensen believes the town can do a much better job marketing the center. He would like to see more residents rent the building for various gatherings such as weddings and graduations parties.
Those rental fees could help offset the roughly $200,000 annual cost to taxpayers to keep the facility running.
“The more you use it, the more money comes in,” said Jensen. “The Halle Center is in its fourth year now; I think we need to come up with a good marketing plan and stick to it. The biggest problem right now is that most people don’t even know it exists.”
Jensen said the town also needs to make the center more “user friendly.”
“They need to make it easier for people to use,” said Jensen. “When people do use it they aren’t given enough time to set up and then there is no one to help them clean up. There are a bunch of things they need to do differently.”
Another way to help offset the cost of the facility, said Jensen, is to begin selling more arts and crafts, including items such as postcards that display scenes of Apex from decades ago.
That is an idea that Councilman Scott Lassiter disagrees with wholeheartedly.
Lassiter, who serves as town council’s liaison to the parks and recreation advisory commission, doesn’t think the town should step into the territory held by local merchants.
“That idea concerns me a great deal,” said Lassiter. “I don’t think we should start competing against merchants in town. I would hate to think we are going up against The Rusty Bucket or Red Canvas or any other business. Is it right that a business owner is paying taxes to support a center that is directly competing against them?”
Lassiter, who has been a vocal supporter of the Halle Center, believes improvements can be made to better utilize the facility. However, he doesn’t think it should be turned into a rental facility.
The goal of the center, he says, has always been to serve the art community of Apex.
“It has never been the mission of the Halle Center to make money,” said Lassiter. “It is a place that serves as a cultural icon in downtown Apex. As far as I’m concerned, the mission statement is being fulfilled.”
As for the $200,000 year expense to the town, Lassiter said taxpayers have shown overwhelming support for the facility. A large contingent of residents voiced their support several months ago during a public hearing on the town budget.
If taxpayers were upset about the cost of the center, said Lassiter, then town council would certainly hear about it.
“There hasn’t been any public outcry about it,” said Lassiter. “It’s been just the opposite. I believe we benefit as a town by spending that money in our budget.”
Jensen believes the town could benefit even more from the Halle Center with better marketing, more utilization and increased revenue.
“If we don’t make some changes we are just going to continue to pour a lot of money into it,” said Jensen.