Tensions escalate over tax dispute

Andrew
Andrew Wagstaff
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PARRSBORO Relations between the Town of Parrsboro and Ships Company Theatre continue to go from bad to worse as a dispute over the theatre companys tax bill remains unresolved.

At a time usually reserved for celebration of the nights play, Ships Company board chairman raised the issue in his post-show speech at the gala night performance of Share on Friday night. No

PARRSBORO Relations between the Town of Parrsboro and Ships Company Theatre continue to go from bad to worse as a dispute over the theatre companys tax bill remains unresolved.

At a time usually reserved for celebration of the nights play, Ships Company board chairman raised the issue in his post-show speech at the gala night performance of Share on Friday night. No town councillors were in attendance, however, nor was Parrsboro Mayor Doug Robinson, who said he declined his invitation due to the recent publicity campaign against the town led by Ships Company supporter Bruce Klinger.

Graham drew parallels between the tax issue and the play about two couples with differing points of view about a town needing to redefine itself.

One hundred years ago Parrsboro had ships that carried coal and lumber all over the world, he said. Well, the world changes, those ships are gone, but the theatre is here and I think its rather ironic that at a time when the theatre and the town need each other more than ever before we find ourselves in this situation.

He thanked all who have shown support for the theatre during the dispute and asked for their continued support and guidance through what he described as probably a stormy season ahead. He also singled out Klinger, a former financial manager of the company, for the work he has done in bringing information to light through freedom of information requests.

But he has gone too far, according to Robinson, who said it was not the intention of the town to have its relationship with the theatre brought to this level.

I believe we have acted responsibly in connection to this situation, he said. They knew we had never at any time told them they were going to be tax free, even when they were working on their project.

It was not until after they got their first tax bill that the company came to the town, according to Robinson, who said the town accommodated them by exempting the cultural portion of the building and taxing only the remaining office portion.

Most other towns in the region that have tax exemption arrangements with their not-for-profit theatres can afford to do so because they have larger tax bases than Parrsboro, according to the mayor.

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I dont know what the answer is, admitted Robinson. They seem to have no intention whatsoever of realistically looking at the towns situation.

The situation is at an absolute stalemate according to Ships Company general manager Chuck Homewood, who said they are continuing with efforts to win public support for their cause. That will include a petition to be circulated to the citizens of Parrsboro within the next week, as well as an I support Ships Company Theatre poster to be displayed in participating homes and businesses, and a self-mailer for non-residents to be included in show programs.

Meanwhile, local business operators Glenn Wheaton and Ron Shaw have begun efforts to set up a meeting between members of the business community and town officials to seek a solution to the impasse.

awagstaff@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Ships Company, Parrsboro and Ships Company Theatre

Geographic location: PARRSBORO

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