Commissioners also discussed plans for the building the orchestra leases from the county, which is located at 1500 N. Frazier St. in Conroe. The lease agreement runs to July, but commissioners have an early termination clause if six months of notice are granted, according to County Attorney B.D. Griffin.
Judge Kathleen Hamilton, who presides over the 359th District Court and serves as the president of the orchestra's board, said no one in the orchestra was aware of any potential plans to move prior to Community Impact Newspaper reaching out to her for comment.
“We are extremely grateful to the Commissioners Court for our lease there and will continue to work with them as long as we are there,” Hamilton wrote in an email.
The initial agreement was signed in June 2010, after Annette Spikes, who currently represents the symphony on the Conroe Arts Commission, and then-County Judge Alan B. Sadler agreed to make the Frazier Street building the orchestra’s new home, according to Hamilton. The lease was extended in 2015 and 2018 to its current term.
The original item on the June 28 agenda only called for a reduction to the amount the orchestra pays to the county, and was initially on the meeting’s consent agenda, which meant it was not to be discussed.
Commissioners previously granted reductions to the orchestra’s lease payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including reducing payments to $1 a month from August 2020 to August 2021. The agreed rent is $1,200 per month, according to the agreement, and the June 28 amendment reduced that amount to $400 per month until Dec. 31, 2023.
However, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack pulled the item into the open agenda to raise questions about the building’s future, suggesting moving one of the county’s departments there. Precinct 1 Commissioner Robert Walker, who represents most of Conroe, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley agreed.
“This court in the past has had conversations regarding the county using [the Frazier Street building] going forward,” Noack said. “If anyone from the symphony is here, I think they should be thinking ahead about finding another place.”
Any potential move would take place in the context of Montgomery County’s planned overhaul of its downtown Conroe buildings through its facilities master plan.
Additionally, the city of Conroe is planning and designing a new visual and performing arts center in the old Sam Houston Elementary School on Lewis and Frazier streets. Hamilton said the orchestra would be “delighted” to be part of the new project.
“We have toured [the Sam Houston Elementary] building, and there is an awful lot of space that would be wonderful to use,” Hamilton said. “The dream of the different performing arts members is to have a space in the Visual Performing Arts center.”
County Judge Mark Keough said at the meeting he would inform Spikes of any potential lease termination at the June 28 meeting.
To learn more about the Conroe Symphony Orchestra, click here.