The Mineral County Council on the Arts shuttered its Hawthorne art center after it discovered it could not meet the conditions of its lease

The Hawthorne art center was shut down recently by the Mineral County Council on the Arts after not being able to meet the conditions of the buildings lease. (C.W. Wilkinson photo)

The Mineral County Council on the Arts shuttered its Hawthorne art center after it discovered it could not meet the conditions of its lease, a letter presented to the school board during the Sept. 5 meeting said.

After some discussion, the board voted unanimously to release the MCCA from its lease, the final step in the process to close the center.

“We find that we have unknowingly violated our lease with the school district by renting out portions of the building and not securing necessary hazard insurance,” Linda Young, MCCA chairwoman wrote in the letter to the board. “It is clear to us and agreed upon by [the MCCA] that we have had great difficulty in financially supporting our presence in the building and have failed in the necessary maintenance of the property.”

The primary problem with the building is its leaky roof. In several places rain water has leaked into the building, ruining ceilings and floors.

Chris Schultz, Mineral County School District superintendent, said in an email it’s not yet clear if there are other problems with the building.

Representatives from POOL/PACT, the district’s insurance company, are working to determine the extent of the damage, and how much of it the district’s insurance will cover, Schultz said.

There were some earlier claims of rampant asbestos and black mold in the building. These reports appear to be false.

According to Schultz, the POOL/PACT representatives have uncovered “some older” ceiling tiles with asbestos. Schultz said the district will do its best to encapsulate and contain the tiles, if it’s necessary.

“Checking for mold is a normal follow-up to water leak assessment,” Schultz said. “There are mold spores in the air all the time. Determining the type of mold growth, if any, due to the moisture in the building must occur as part of the process. I haven’t received any reports as of yet as to the type or extent of any mold growth.”

But the building issues aren’t the only problems that forced the center to close.

Young said the MCCA struggled to pay for the energy and water needed to keep the center open. When it discovered it also had to pay for hazard insurance, it realized it had no close but to close the building.

“We have worked very hard to acquire funding on past projects and completed many projects in the building and grounds, but at this time we do not have the funding and see no pathway that will bring us to compliance with our lease partnership with the district,” Young wrote.

It’s not yet clear what the fiscal impact on the school district will be, if any, Schultz said, because the insurance investigation hasn’t been completed.

“Areas that are not covered, asbestos abatement, for example, would need another funding source,” Schultz said. “I believe the MCCA will work with us to seek grant support for repairs that are not covered by insurance. We have limited capital resources in reserve within the district and hope to avoid having to dip into those funds.”

Once the repairs have been completed, the district will look for a way to use the school, a designated historic place, in what Schultz called a “positive community resource in the most fiscally responsible way possible.”

“Personally, I find the possibility of shared services agreements with the county and/or other entities very appealing,” Schulz said. “If we can provide this building as a resource for our municipality/community organization and gain resources or support in return, that benefits our community in terms of efficient use of tax dollars and can help maintain the building as a community resource.”

The district may also not be alone in its quest to pay to repair the building.

“It is with deep regret and sincere apology that we, the current board members of the MCCA request release from our long-standing lease contract on the 6th Street School, also known as the Arts and Culture Center,” Young wrote. “We have agreed as a board to work with the MCSD in any way we can to assist with the necessary repairs and return to the building to a usable structure.”