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McMaster proposes $15M in state funding for future Sumter Opera House renovations

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 2/8/20

In his recommended appropriations for the arts commission section of his executive budget, Gov. Henry McMaster proposed $15 million of the state's $1.8 billion surplus be contributed to the Sumter Opera House for future renovations.

On Jan. 13, …

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McMaster proposes $15M in state funding for future Sumter Opera House renovations

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In his recommended appropriations for the arts commission section of his executive budget, Gov. Henry McMaster proposed $15 million of the state's $1.8 billion surplus be contributed to the Sumter Opera House for future renovations.

On Jan. 13, McMaster created his proposed executive budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 taking into account the state having a surplus of $1,800,000,000 in new revenue for this year's budget.

"The governor is required by statute to submit an executive report with suggestions of what he'd like to be funded (in the state)," said Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter.

Smith, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the first state legislative group to take a shot at the annual budget, said the governor's executive budget is focused on aligning priorities across the state and graphing them into the annual budget. He said the governor thought the Sumter Opera House was one of those priorities that needed a funding contribution.

"I was very pleased that Gov. McMaster saw the value in the historic venue in Sumter," Smith said.

Recently, the Sumter Opera House celebrated its 125th year. The historic beacon of downtown Sumter has been standing since September 1894, bringing entertainment from nationally known artists to the Sumter stage.

Throughout the years, the building has served as the opera house, a music academy, a movie theater, city offices, a meat market, a barber shop and a jail. The building was eventually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

It was last renovated in 1986, according to Seth Reimer, cultural manager of the opera house. He said the building has been in need of upgrades to continue being a cultural asset to the City of Sumter.

"We've got some renovations planned as well as increasing the functionality space we have," Reimer said.

Some of the planned renovations include Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, dressing rooms and classroom space and improvements to the structure itself.

Reimer, Mayor Joe McElveen and City Manager Deron McCormick have been asking the state for a portion of the budget to help with the renovations for the last five years.

Reimer said he hopes the funding contribution stays in the budget and that the renovations will make people feel welcomed in Sumter and help the opera house stand for another 125 years.

Though McMaster made his executive budget, the state House of Representatives and then the state Senate also have to make a proposed budget.

"I hope this is something that will stay in the budget," state Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, said. "I'm very glad he put that in his executive budget. It shows the governor is seeing Sumter."

The House is working on its budget, while the Senate will work on its budget in March or April, according to McElveen.

Once all the proposals are completed, the House and Senate will take their budgets to the Conference Committee to create a compromised budget to be acted on by the governor in June.