City approves contract for Centerstage to manage Knutzen theatre

The Federal Way City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract between the city and Centerstage Theatre to run the city-owned Knutzen Family Theatre.

The council agreed to award the managing position to Centerstage on April 7, 2009. The contract spelled out the specifics. City staff estimates that by paying Centerstage to manage the theater and take care of the day-to-day maintenance, Federal Way will save $54,000 a year.

The contract

The contract runs from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2012.

Either party can terminate the agreement with or without cause, but must give 120 days notice. However, the parks director designee may terminate the agreement immediately if Centerstage fails to maintain the required insurance policies or participates in improper hiring practices.

There are some variations from the standard city contract. Recreation events already scheduled for 2009 will take place. The city's historical recreation and cultural programs, including Arts Commission annual events, the Writer's Retreat, Friendship Theater and dance recitals, will continue in their set schedule. Additionally, the city can request additional dates as needed for recreation, civic and cultural events. The first 25 hours will be at no rental cost. Any additional hours will be at the non-profit rental rate.

Centerstage is responsible for paying for the janitorial service and must pay the prevailing wage for the job, unless a volunteer does the work. Centerstage's offices are to be housed in the Dumas Bay caretaker's apartment, and the second floor of the building will store props and costumes.

The contract has the city paying Centerstage Theatre $70,000 for managing the theater in the first year and increasing 8 percent the following year.

There is also the issue of back rent that Centerstage owes the city for its previous place of business. Centerstage will pay back the rent over a three-year period: $404 a month for the first year, $1,000 a month for the second year and $1,021 for the third year (only if the contract is extended to a third year). If the agreement is terminated by either party or not extended to a third year, the outstanding balance of back rent is due within 60 days.

Centerstage must keep books, records and documents of all costs and accounting practices and procedures. The city will review these records at least quarterly and will report to the city council on them.

Centerstage is paying one-third of the utilities, starting Sept. 1, 2009, which is the historical split between the theater and Dumas Bay Centre.

Although the future of Dumas Bay is at the moment uncertain, provisions were agreed upon under the assumption that at least for now, Centerstage will work with Dumas Bay. Dumas Bay employees, hired by the city, will share common areas with Centerstage, including hallways, bathrooms, management and parking areas. They both must coordinate events and uses for the premises, and Centerstage must respect quiet hours from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. for overnight guests.

Another part of the contracted theater management: Centerstage is responsible for bringing in and scheduling events along with marketing the theater.

The city is still responsible for the general structural maintenance, rigging systems, fire suppression system, lighting and sound systems and planned capital replacements. Other than this routine maintenance, Centerstage will be responsible for all other repairs and maintenance, and will be responsible for any damages or replacement of equipment due to misuse or accident.

Council's concerns

Several council members asked for some clarification on the contract and for reassurances that Centerstage would continue to manage the theater in a fashion that was in line with what was best for the city.

Council member Linda Kochmar was concerned about rates for non-Centerstage events, mainly groups that have consistently used Knutzen, such as dance studios. Another concern that Kochmar voiced was the managing fee, especially the 8 percent increase each year.

"I would not disagree that in this climate especially, 8 percent is on the high side," assistant city manager Cary Roe said.

However, that was part of the proposal Centerstage gave to the council and that it agreed to, Roe said. Kochmar asked that staff bring back regular reports on how Centerstage is doing, and Roe said he would see to it personally.

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