Centers for the arts proliferate in Harford [Editorial]

Difficulty in getting school auditoriums for community events created a void

Aberdeen has an interesting proposal to consider for the future of the parcel known as the Moose Lodge. A media production company is trying to buy the city-owned structure on Rogers Street, basically on consignment, and turn it into a performing arts center and a video production facility.

The previous city administration bought the property a few years back with the idea of trying to turn it into a sort of Ordnance Museum, or some other tourist attraction, to bring people off I-95 into town. The Aberdeen Proving Ground Ordnance Museum, until it relocated out of Aberdeen during the last resizing of military facilities known as BRAC, was one of the most popular attractions in the state.

Mayor Patrick McGrady would rather see the city government sell the Moose property, get its money back and put the property back on the tax rolls.

Either course for the Moose, as a quasi-government entity that doesn't pay property taxes, but attracts visitors, as a museum would, or as a property tax paying business, would be good for Aberdeen.

If this proposal, which sounds a bit more pie in the sky than it does as the basis for a solid city partnership, comes to fruition, it will be added to the growing list of performing arts venues in the region.

A short drive east on Route 40, Havre de Grace's restoration and recreation of its venerable century-old Opera House is nearing an expected June completion.

The Opera House is only about four blocks away from Havre de Grace High School and its 999-seat auditorium that was built years ago, in part, as a community facility. In more recent years, however, Harford County Public Schools has taken the word "community" out of that phrase, refusing to let most groups use it.

The same is true in Aberdeen, where a 600-seat auditorium was built when Aberdeen High School was replaced. But again, the school system has limited its use, as well as the use of other similar facilities at schools around Harford County. The taxpayers – who paid for every single school system facility – be damned is the message the community repeatedly gets from the school system. These facilities, no matter the original intent, are for "our" use only is the school system's mentality.

And into the void such an attitude creates, come opportunities such as the Moose Lodge, the Havre de Grace Opera House and other fledgling places for the arts. We welcome the resurgence of the Opera House in Havre de Grace, while encouraging Aberdeen officials to be open to, but pragmatic about, the most recent proposal for the Moose Lodge.

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