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Group May Have More Time to Save Theatre

A local group is still in the running to save a historic theatre, for now.
BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY - A local group is still in the running to save a historic theatre, for now.

A hearing was held Monday morning in Centre County court for a judge to determine who will get the deed to the Garman Theatre.

It comes down to the Bellefonte borough, who wants housing versus the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association that wants to save the Garman.

The judge did not make his ruling Monday morning on who will take over the Garman Theatre property. Instead, he said he will make his decision before the Industrial Development Authority's meeting Wednesday night.

Folks we spoke with say either way the judge rules, they're ready to move forward.

The fate of the Garman Theatre is still in limbo. Keith Koch wants to save it, and he's staying positive.

"So far, his responses have been favorable to us," Koch said. "I trust his judgement no matter which way it turns out."

Judge Thomas Kistler is trying to determine whether or not to give the BHCA more time to present their progress to the IDA Wednesday. The borough still thinks housing is the best answer, and says the judge's decision isn't easy.

"There's a discrepancy," Assistant Borough Manager Don Holderman said. "Our solicitor's argument is the IDA has the authority to make the determination and the judge has those three options to accept, reject, or modify."

A new preservation law is making who has the final say in what happens to the Garman more complicated.

BHCA says it's up to the judge, but the IDA claims they have the final say. Don Holderman says either way the judge rules, the IDA will do what's best for the borough.

"The IDA hasn't seen that funding there to ensure that if something were to fail down the road, it's not going to fall back on the borough," he said.

Estimates to put a new roof on the Garman are between $100,000 and $150,000. Koch says so far, the BHCA has raised about $90,000 in donations and pledges, and has plans to re-roof the building by October.

He says if the group gets the green light from the judge, money won't be an issue.

"As a nonprofit, we have more avenues to raise money with grants," Koch said. "I don't have a real issue thinking that the money will not come in."

A decision from the judge is expected before Wednesday.


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