Spring County Will Not Divert Funds Earmarked For Grove Playhouse
By Eric Kalis
Miami-Dade County’s cultural affairs director insists the county has no plans to divert $15 million earmarked for the troubled Coconut Grove Playhouse to other projects.
"The money is committed to the playhouse, and we are committed to helping it get to a stable state," said Michael Spring.
Mr. Spring said county officials remain dedicated to helping the directors of the Grove theater recover from a $4 million debt in time for a mini-season in January. The 80-year-old theater’s financial problems have made it impossible to pay insurance premiums, resulting in a shutdown in April. Most of the staff was laid off and longtime artistic director Arnold Mittelman resigned May 16.
While the theater’s board of directors will have to show measured signs of economic progress before the county releases $15 million in bonds intended for physical improvements, Mr. Spring said, he is not exploring other uses for the money.
"It would be premature to speculate about that," he said.
The board of directors is trying to find an auditor to determine the source of the debt. Lewis Freeman, a Miami forensic accountant, was hired in May but resigned two days after accepting the job.
The county is working with playhouse staff to deal with the debt and is formulating a plan for the planned January mini-season and a long-term plan for keeping the theater open, Mr. Spring said. There is no urgency for the county to make the $15 million available, he said.
"There is a timetable for the bond program – a draw-down schedule," he said. "But we are somewhat flexible about that to make sure the projects happen responsibly and well."