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Holding Pattern At The Holly



Mail Tribune

Acreaky catwalk snakes its way along the ceiling in the Holly Theatre, whose main attraction these days is the repair of a broken truss that supports the roof and ceiling.

In the glow of work lights, Curt Green applies 230 foot-pounds of torque to a tension rod that is a key component of the repairs.

“It’ll be a lot stronger than the original,” said Green, whose construction company has been adding steel plates to the truss for additional strength.

The 82-year-old theater could be declared structurally sound by the city in a few weeks, but the fate of the Holly’s complete restoration rests in the resolution of a testy legal dispute that erupted when the Office of the Chancellor of the Oregon University System challenged the radio station’s leadership and outside enterprises.

The JPR Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the radio station, owns the Holly Theatre and other buildings off 10th Street that could become the radio station’s future headquarters. University system officials have questioned whether those efforts, along with restoration of a historic theater in Redding, Calif., should be part of the mission of the public radio station, which is partially funded by the state.

Representatives of the JPR Foundation and the Chancellor’s Office met last week in a mediation session and arrived at a tentative resolution.

Officials at the Chancellor’s Office wouldn’t disclose details of any agreement on Tuesday.

A short press release from Southern Oregon University indicated more information about the ownership and operation of JPR would be released after approval of the agreement by the university and JPR boards.

The dispute with the Chancellor’s Office over control of the assets of the radio station has brought to a halt efforts to raise money for JPR’s Medford projects.

“Fund-raising has been put on hold since the Chancellor’s Office raised all the threats of litigation several months ago,” said Ron Kramer, executive director of the foundation and, for the time being, also executive director of the radio station.

An audit conducted by the Chancellor’s Office recommended greater separation between JPR and its fundraising arm, the JPR Foundation, saying Kramer’s dual roles could pose a conflict of interest. Following that, SOU President Mary Cullinan terminated Kramer as head of the radio station, effective June 30.

JPR Foundation board members have argued against that move, noting that the university system has other administrators performing dual roles, partly as a cost-saving measure.

In the audit, the JPR Foundation’s efforts to remodel the Holly and build a radio headquarters in Medford were deemed potential threats that could undermine fund-raising efforts of Southern Oregon University.

The audit findings have hit JPR at a time when it wants to expand its operations and revenue stream in the face of cutbacks from the university system.

Kramer said he has been instructed to not discuss the outcome of the mediation session, or whether he will retain his job after June 30.

He said he was not a party to the agreement reached between the Chancellor’s Office and the foundation’s executive team. Kramer also said he didn’t have a hand in crafting the two-sentence press release from SOU.

“Neither necessarily represent my views,” he said.

Despite the dispute with the Chancellor’s Office, JPR has remodeled the front of the Holly, restoring its appearance in1930, when it first opened.

Kramer said he expected work on the trusses would lift a condemnation action the city took about a decade ago when it declared the building unsafe.

“Everyone can breathe a little easier when it is completed,” he said.

Workers have been slowly jacking up the sagging trusses to give them time to adjust to their new positions.

Green points to a couple of the original steel bolts pulled from the truss, bent by the weight of the sagging timbers, which have been supported by stacked crisscrossing lumber that reaches from the floor of the Holly to the ceiling.

Green said it’s not unusual to see sagging in older trusses, and he expects to finish the work by next week.

“I’ll be out of here soon,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email

This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.

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