LAURINBURG — Laurinburg agreed this week to give $7,500 to the Scotland County Arts Council, but some city officials have expressed concern about “opening the door” to funding nonprofits.
In a 3 to 2 vote on Tuesday, the Laurinburg City Council approved a request made by Arts Council Executive Director Erin Rembert on behalf of her board.
Of the $7,500, $1,500 would go for the city’s membership in the Arts Council;$1,500 to help organize the annual Christmas on Main event; $1,500 for a spring art event to promotes downtown and the new Art Garden; $1,500 for facility support; and $1,500 for arts education support.
Rembert said the money is “imperative” to the organization for its day-to-day operations and helping to match grant funds.
“We want to be the hub of the creative community in our city,” Rembert said. “Our downtown facility represents a space that showcases our many local and student artists. These funds not only help to keep us in our building and in downtown, but supports other arts groups.”
Voting in favor of the request, were council members Mary Jo Adams, Dee Hammond and Drew Williamson; Council members Curtis Leak and Councilman J.D. Willis voted against.
Leak questioned how the city could justify giving money to a nonprofit after council decided years earlier against such requests.
“We got out of helping nonprofits 10 years ago,” Leak said. “If you let one in there that means next week everybody who sells a chicken or fish plate can come up here and ask for $1,500 to $7,500. I understand art is great, but we’ve gotten away from funding nonprofits.”
Willis suggested that the city provide $1,500 to help with Christmas on Main and another $1,500 for the Art Garden since the events would promote Laurinburg. Willis said the city funds nonprofits like the Laurinburg-Scotland County Chamber of Commerce and the Humane Society of Scotland County because those groups also provide a service to the city.
Willis added that the city should take another look at how nonprofits are regulated.
Adams agreed that the city provide at least $1,500 for the Christmas on Main event. She said a healthy arts program is “vital” to downtown development.
“In working with the Downtown Associates Program,” Adams said. “It is the one things they stressed — an arts program in your downtown.”
Mayor Matthew Block said most cities the size of Laurinburg support arts programming.
“The Arts Council stands above and apart from any Tom, Dick and Harry coming here and asking for money,” Block said. “The arts are important. I don’t think we need to try to micromanage and ask them to come here every time they need a little money.
“You just spent $200,000 for plans for the building and you can’t spend $7,500? It is a no-brainer.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023