Packard operator voting delayed

WARREN – City Council placed into first reading an ordinance for hiring a firm to take over operations of the Packard Music Hall, delaying the administration’s plans to start negotiations.

Council could have passed ordinance as an emergency. Otherwise, it takes three readings over three meetings to pass legislation.

Several council members stated prior to Wednesday’s meeting they were concerned about their lack of information about the terms of any contract that may be negotiated and the possible management company that would operate the facility.

“I wanted to go into executive session to give council members an opportunity voice their concerns, but we did not have the law director at this meeting to determine whether we had the legal authority,” Councilwoman Helen Rucker said after the vote.

“I want to make sure all of our council members are given a chance to get their questions answered,” Rucker said. “I’m recommending that any councilman wanting information to go to (Safety Service Director Enzo) Cantalamesa.”

Administration officials have said they are prohibited from talking about any possible negotiations about the Packard Music Hall. However, according to Eric Ryan of JAC Management Group LLC, he has been in preliminary talks with the city. Ryan’s company manages the Covelli Centre in Youngstown.

Neither Ryan nor administration officials would go into details about the substance of the conversations.

Rucker said that any company that agrees to either do the management and operations of Packard Music Hall is taking a risk, because the city could not subsidize ticket promotions or sales.

The city historically has provided an annual subsidy to the Packard Music Hall of about $250,000. It is not known whether the city will continue to subsidize the music hall under a management agreement.

“I think that Chris Stephenson (current manager of Packard Music Hall) has done a yeoman’s job,” Rucker said.

It also is not known how city employees currently working at Packard Music Hall would be affected if a management company takes over its operation. It also is not know how a management agreement would affect scheduling of the Packard Band or other programs that have annually appeared at the music hall.

Rucker said the council will have to trust the administration to negotiate and sign the best deal.

“This should be a win-win for both sides,” she said.