By a vote of 6 to 3 and one alderman not voting, the Watertown City Council said a resounding no to a request by the Friends Of The Goss to approve a 150,000 dollar grant to help keep the Goss Opera House operational. Despite impassioned pleas Aldermen Josh Weyh, Brad Thorson, Glen Vilhauer, Bruce Buhler, Adam Lalim and Mike Danforth cast no votes. Those favoring were Alderman Don Roby, Dan Albertson and Beth Mantey. Speaking for the Friends Of The Goss Dr. Charles Sherman explained why the dollars were so important to the future of the Goss Opera House.
He says the Goss helps differentiate Watertown’s downtown from other communities and that the 300,000 dollars asked for by the current owner will free up the debt. There would be no liens.
The plan was for the foundation to own the building with the restaurant making it on its own. He said this isn’t buying a restaurant but rather paying the dollars to the foundation so that it can own the opera house. The restaurant would be operated under a lease arrangement. They would also lease out office space in the building as well as the opera house and other space in the building. They also had planned to do some significant fund campaigns once the building was in the hands of the foundation. Alderman Dan Albertsen expressed support.
Alderman Mike Danforth says his phone and e-mail have been going off the hook for three weeks and that from the council perspective that’s the kind of input they need. He commended the Friends and Dave Barry for all they have done, but the point is they have to be respectful of people. He says many social media posts have not.
Danforth says it’s unfortunate the Goss has become such a divisive thing. He said he would love nothing more than to support the Goss but that he has a responsibility to the taxpayer. He said he can’t ignore the opposition.
Alderman Don Roby said he doesn’t think people realize how important the Goss is. Alderman Glen Vilhauer expressed frustration that the council hasn’t been brought into the conversation earlier.
Vilhauer questioned Brad Johnson about an e-mail that Johnson sent out stating, that regardless of how the vote turned out, the Friends Of The Goss Foundation will prevail and that ultimately they will gain control of the building. Johnson said the city dollars were the primary effort but they aren’t quitting, although it will take longer.
Johnson talked about the future.
Alderman Bruce Buhler opposed the grant saying they need more time to vet out the safety and other concerns of the building.
Mayor Caron asked the council to take a vote.
Alderman Roby made the motion to approve.
Those opposed were Mike Danforth, Adam Lalim, Josh Weyh, Bruch Buhler, Glen Vilhauer and Brad Thorson. Those favoring the grant were Alderman Dan Albertsen, Don Roby and Beth Mantey.