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Silver City Town Council approves application for funding a movie theater

At the Silver City Town Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 22, councilors voted to authorize submittal of an application for financial assistance through the New Mexico Finance Authority to purchase the Silco Theater.

"I could not be more thrilled," Nick Seibel, Silver City MainStreet Project Manager, said. "This investment puts us in position to bring back first-run movies to downtown. What we will do is remove the remnants of the second floor, bring back the balcony and concession stand, and install digital cinema equipment."

Seibel said two potential private operators of the movie theater are interested in bringing back movies by May of this year.

"I hope this is the first step to multiple theaters downtown," Seibel said.

Mayor James Marshall said the closure of the Real West Theater has prompted what may be a stop-gap measure to continue to have movies in Silver City. "If it becomes part of a theater plan, so be it; if not, we will have the equipment, and the Silco will be an asset to the town."

Town Manager Alex Brown said the approval of the application is just the first step. The town will have to approve an ordinance for the loan. "We have moved forward on an appraisal, so we know how much the theater is worth. Hopefully at the same meeting, we can approve the loan and the purchase of the Silco. We will use the state funding that went to MainStreet and this money for the purchase. We will lease the theater to MainStreet and revenues will hopefully cover the debt service."

Councilor Polly Cook asked about a private operator. Seibel said with fixed seating for the facility as a theater, it would be leased to a private operator to operate the Silco Theater as a business.

Councilor José Ray said he had several people at the Red Paint Powwow last weekend tell him they were ready to support a downtown theater.

Councilor Mike Morones also supported the efforts. "MainStreet partners with us, providing economic services for the downtown. The state Economic Development Department says this has to happen, and they are putting skin and sweat into the game.  A theater has been identified by many economic development people as an important project for downtown."

"In the bigger picture, for close to eight months, we have been in discussion with theater operators, (Western New Mexico University President Joseph) Shepard, (Grant County Commission Chairman Brett) Kasten, and (County Manager Jon Paul) Saari coming up with a theater plan that serves the community," Marshall said. "We have learned that one screen doesn't cut it. The optimum is five screens, with a minimum of four screens. We are continuing to develop the project to see what we can come up with. It's hard to see a college town without a movie theater. We will continue to aggressively move with this project."

Another approval of importance, especially to veterans of the Vietnam War, was for a resolution honoring Carlos C. Aguirre. The resolution stipulates that a bronze plaque will be affixed on the Big Ditch Bridge on Broadway.  Councilor Ray asked for the resolution for Aguirre, who was a native of Silver City. He was wounded in Vietnam in February 1968 and killed a couple of weeks later.

"He taught me to wrestle," Ray said. "I was just a puny kid in high school. I believe this plaque needs to be done. His (nick)name was 'Killer' because when he played baseball at St. Vincent's, he hit the baseball hard. The coach told him not to 'kill the ball,' and that's how he got his nickname."

Willie Andazola, Vietnam veteran, spoke in support of the resolution. "Carlos was my cousin. I was over there when he was killed. I understand that we lost a lot of veterans. It has been 45 years since we lost him on Feb. 24, 1968. The pain's still there."

Frank Donohue, Vietnam veteran, also said he supports the resolution and plaque. "I served with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. Once a Marine, always a Marine. We ask you to do this in honor of Carlos."

Armando Amador, also a Vietnam veteran, said he has worked for 20 years with Vietnam veterans. "Not a day goes by that we don't think of our brothers we lost. This will be healing for his family and friends. This is one step forward in the right direction. We have to change the hatred and add some love to it."

Morones said the small gesture of the resolution and plaque is a good step. Councilor Cynthia Bettison echoed what Morones said and called the resolution an important step. "I remember the day the helicopter came to town and everyone lined the highway to greet it," she said. "I think this is an important step in healing."

"As we started this meeting, I asked everyone to join in the Pledge of Allegiance," Marshall said. "With a roomful of veterans, you can hear the difference when they say the pledge. They mean it.

"Your service has installed in us freedoms no other country has," Marshall continued. "We struggled how to do this resolution so we honor all veterans. We recognize the loss to his family. Many of you carry wounds—some visible, some not. There's nothing this council can do that will signify the loss and service you've given for us. We honor all veterans past and present with this plaque."

Councilors unanimously approved the resolution to install the plaque.

In other business, councilors approved a notice of intent to pass an ordinance amending Chapter 16, Section 16-44 of the Town of Silver City Municipal Code, to reconcile sections of the code that do not agree on the Incentive Review Committee membership. The Town Council changed the number from seven to five members and added language stating there would be no limit to the number of terms a person may serve.

Councilors also approved a resolution, supporting a public-private Cultural Economic Development Arts and Cultural District Project. Morones asked for a slight change in wording, so it did not sound like the town was obligated to use only the tools—local economic development act or tax increment—that were specifically listed.

Seibel said the resolution was required to continue as an Arts and Cultural District. He said the district has already made "a tremendous difference to the town and put us in with Taos and Santa Fe, branding us as an arts and cultural destination."

Cissy McAndrew, Southwest New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce director, said so much energy and passion had the town moving forward when Silver City was named one of the first arts and cultural districts in the state.

Bettison said she has seen the difference in how arts and cultural events can draw people to the town to stay longer.

Councilors approved the list of election workers for the March 5 town election. Brown said all those listed had gone through election school.

Also approved was the appointment of Elizabeth Foster to the Library Board and Nancy E. Johnson, Michelle Carrillo, Kathryn Gorthy, Sandra Hicks and Mitch Hellman to the Lodgers Tax Advisory Board. Marshall said the terms would be worked out so that they are staggered.

The reports at the beginning of the meeting will be covered in a subsequent article.

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