Their Eyes Are Watching Wellmont

The Montclair Times and The Star Ledger tag team Steven Plofker today, with the latest up-to-the-minute goings on in the Wellmont saga. First, from The Ledger, with us reading between the lines…
wellmont.jpg

Plofker gets new offer for historic theater
Steven Plofker, the developer who purchased the historic Wellmont Theater only to put it back on the market, has received an offer for the old movie house.

Don’t get too excited — it’s not an offer that’s being accepted. In fact, it’s an offer Plofker isn’t giving “serious consideration.” The fact that he’s not considering it — yet — is the news, although it reads more like PR machinations.

But Plofker said he wasn’t giving an investment company’s offer, “in the ballpark” of his $1.5 million asking price, serious consideration.
“The intention is to find someone who will use the theater for some kind of arts or performing arts kind of use,” Plofker said. “I’ll be a little more patient trying to find that type of user.”
In May, Plofker snapped up the triplex theater for $985,000 from Gary E. Heckel of Roberts Theaters. At first, he said he might convert the grand stage space behind the multiplex’s screens into a restaurant and find an operator for the movie house, but he instead opted to put it back on the market.
He listed the circa 1922 theater with Prudential Zinn about four weeks ago. He termed the offer “respectable” but said that wasn’t the issue.
“We’re working with two different interested parties, and I have no idea whether one of these will come to fruition,” Plofker said. “These art groups or film operators are not generally the most financially sound entities, so it just takes patience on our part to work with them. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Montclair Times piece opens with…

No one wants to let go of a good thing.

Actually, someone did. Namely Gary Heckel, the guy who sold it to Plofker in the first place.
And closes with…

Montclair currently does not have a performing arts center.

That’s certainly true. So do we think it’s going to get one? Outpost in The Burbs and Montclair Arts Council are among those trying. Will it be as hard to find a buyer for the Wellmont as it is to find buyers for these?
Is Plofker setting the stage to play the dashing hero, rushing in and saving the Wellmont, to make up for the Crisco fiasco? Or merely going through the motions of exhausting all avenues. It’s a suspense thriller to be sure; pass the popcorn.

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65 COMMENTS

  1. If the arts council gets involved in this then it follows that the town will probably have to pick up the tab at some point. There is a perfectly good performance space that with a little money could be world class. It’s called the Montcalir HS Auditorium, comes with an outdoor amphitheater. It can be used to train students and present world class perfomances. Unity concerts presented everything from the London Symphony to Judy Collins there. Someone should read the arts plan since the Arts Council hasn’t.

  2. “this isn’t a hero dashing in- he’s set to make a profit….”
    And what’s wrong with making a profit?

  3. “Montclair currently does not have a performing arts center” ???
    The new Kasser Theater at Montclair State U has been bringing world-class dance, theater and music to town for a year and a half now.

  4. sleepysleek and hiding tell the truth – there are plenty of great arts venues here. under no circumstances should my tax dollars be used to save that place. if the wellmont can’t make it as a movie theater then it will go the way of other outdated things. next time you enjoy a dvd on your plasma raise a toast to the old world of silent movies with organ music….

  5. New Brunswick’s downtown revival is centered around another old Vaudeville house, the State Theater.
    NB also had financial help from Johnson and Johnson, which is headquatered there.

  6. Do you wanna buy an organ?
    It’s old and slightly used.
    Selma used to love it,
    So it never got abused.
    Now it’s getting older,
    And she don’t like it much,
    It’s just another piece of junk,
    She doesn’t want to touch.
    CHORUS:
    DO YOU WANNA BUY AN ORGAN?
    I’LL SELL IT TO YOU CHEAP.
    SHE NEVER LET ME TOUCH IT
    SO YOU KNOW IT AIN’T BEEN BEAT.
    IT ONLY NEEDS A TUNER
    TO MAKE IT JUST LIKE NEW.
    IF YOU WANNA BUY AN ORGAN
    I’LL SELL THIS ONE TO YOU.
    She used to rock & roll on it,
    She kept it up all night.
    To see her on the organ,
    Was such a happy sight.
    Now she won’t go near it,
    She lost the urge to play,
    But I know that she’d be mad at me,
    For giving it away.
    (REPEAT CHORUS)
    Are you a beginner?
    I have instruction books.
    With lots of colored pictures,
    To show you how it looks.
    If you need endorsements,
    This lady friend of mine
    Tried it out a couple times,
    And said it’s working fine.
    (REPEAT CHORUS)

  7. CRIKEY maytes! it’s a buildin’! what’s the scoop and poop on the animal shelter in bloomfield? livin things are at stake there maytes! THAT’S what’s important!

  8. All right, all right. I’ll give you $2m for it, and not a penny more. I need a place to hang my sweaty t-shirts. I suppose if some musicians and such wanted to perform there, that’d be okay, too.

  9. Grumpy,
    Be careful what you wish for. The town is looking to pump millions into Clary Anderson Arena to create a new performing arts center on the 2nd floor. It would be cheaper to buy the Wellmont from Plofker and rehab it.

  10. “Be careful what you wish for. The town is looking to pump millions into Clary Anderson Arena to create a new performing arts center on the 2nd floor”
    Please tell me that is a joke .

  11. jimmy229, does the estimate for the 2nd floor anderson art center include a 3 story parking deck to be built over the pool?

  12. There are already plans drawn up for Clary. It was in the Montclair Times about 6 mos to a year ago.
    Grumpy, I wouldnt be surprised if the pool was removed completely as it seems to close earlier every year. It was hardly open last August due to many reasons, even though it has much better parking already than the other two pools.

  13. WTF ??? Montclair has a perfectly good public use High School Auditorium and now they want to waste $$$ on another “performing arts” space ???

  14. In regard to the Performance/community center at Clary from the Montclair Times Article dated 3/8/06
    https://www.montclairtimes.com/page.php?page=11604
    “My hope, my dream for this project is to be incorporated into the plans for the new community center that’s in the planning stages at the Clary Anderson Arena,” she said. “It would be such a logical place, because the Unity Wall is truly a community project, the arena is in a central location, and there are so many opportunities to incorporate the tiles into the design. This would be a way for people to feel connected to the community center,” she explained.

  15. “WTF ???”
    Dont even get me started. They just hired another CFO to the tune of $120k per year. Guess what?
    Another part time position per the Times this week (although I couldnt find it online, it was in the print form).
    To quote Saving Private Ryan, “Things have taken a turn for the surreal.”

  16. Back when the “School with a pool” was being discussed, I heard rumors about enclosing Essex Pool by expanding the Cary Anderson Arena as part making the CAA into a community center. I don’t know how seriously this was being considered.
    Essex Pool is closed early because it is the least used of the three pools during Memorial Day through Labor Day. Many Montclairians don’t even know that it is there. If it were enclosed, I am sure that it would outdraw the other two pools during the rest of the year.
    It is a nice idea, but where would the money come from?

  17. Wow, there are a lot of really bad ideas floating around. I can’t believe that in a town like Montclair, those in the know and those in power haven’t been able to step up and make something happen with this opportunity.
    – The high school auditorium hardly can qualify as a public performing arts space. It’s not available for general public use and it wouldn’t work that way even if it was.
    – Building a performing arts center in an ugly, completely unrelated use building like the Anderson arena… in a totally out of the way location is amateur hour and a recipe for failure as well.
    – Sure the Kasser Theater at the university is great but you can’t suggest that takes the place of Montclair having a vibrant arts venue within the town. It’s totally disconnected and serves a completlely different purpose from both artistic and business perspectives.
    – The idea of having a central performing arts venue in the DOWNTOWN area is one that is a proven success is so many other New Jersey towns. They may come in different formats: town-owned, privately owned, nonprofit entities, etc, but they are wonderful where they do exist. Montclair has such a base of talented and artistic people, the things that could be done with this space are staggering. Look at Red Bank, Morristown, South Orange, New Brunswick, any number of others…
    What would work beautifully would be to restore the space to a legit theatre, establish a resident commuity theatre, allow for use by all of the other nonprofit performing groups in town, and have a revenue source by renting it to commercial arts entities like dance studios, professional children’s theatre groups, etc. An arts series could be created each season with commercial road shows and music groups booked in to bookend the community uses.
    It’s sad to see reactions go up so quickly about “not my tax money” but let’s be real. The things your tax money ARE spent on that you don’t even know about, think about, care about are pretty disgusting compared to something worthwhile like that. Something that adds value for the entire community. Where are the elected officials with some vision and creativity and why aren’t they speaking to Mr. P about his intentions? He’s opened a door, hasn’t he?

  18. “”WTF ???”
    Dont even get me started. They just hired another CFO to the tune of $120k per year. Guess what?
    Another part time position per the Times this week (although I couldnt find it online, it was in the print form).
    To quote Saving Private Ryan, “Things have taken a turn for the surreal.”
    Posted by: jimmy229oz | December 29, 2006 12:15 PM ”
    Do you mean that the CFO is part time at $120,000 per year???

  19. The CFO postion is not part time at $120,000.
    It is as follows…
    1. The appointment as Chief Financial Officer/CMFO is effective January 1, 2007, with the expectation that you will work the equivalent of one day per week for Montclair and be in the office on average once per week. You will receive a stipend of $462 per week for this service.
    2. The appointment as Director of Finance and Chief Financial Officer/CMFO is effective February 5, 2007, and at that time the above stipend will cease and an annual salary of $122,160 will commence.
    So it is only a part time postion for a month at a lower stipend until the full time position starts at $120k.
    The part to be worried about is…
    3. As discussed, the Borough of Glen Ridge may wish Montclair to provide their CFO next year under a shared services agreement. Thus, you may be able to participate in this or a similar opportunity in the future, as long as we are able to work out mutually agreeable terms.
    4. I understand that you have child care issues through this school year. As long as you keep me informed of your situation and devote full-time to your position here starting 2/5/07, you will be able to “flex” your hours on days that you need to attend to these issues.
    Those scare me as it is worded in a way that we may not see a person in this office from 9-5, Mon-Fri. And it leaves open the door that we may see the person working for another municipality like the last CFO. Hopefully if the CFO works also for Glen Ridge, Montclair gets some money back as opposed to the last CFO who got paid a seperate salary from Mountainside while Montclair got nothing (not really a shared service at all, just a second job!)

  20. This is quite something!
    IF this letter is what it appears to be (the terms of the position, ie. employment agreement) it seems to be giving carte blanche to the new CFO to hold down as many jobs as he wants.
    Why doesn’t Montclair warrant a FULL TIME CFO? Are our finances in such good shape that someone can do it part time, or is the assumption we’ll just go hire some more consultants to “help out?”
    Montclair is a $200MM plus “business.” How many such companies does anyone know who have a part time CFO at that level?

  21. At my job if you want to work from home you have to have childcare at home. We recognize that parenting is a full time job and that you cannot possibly work a full time job from home without childcare.
    Is Montclair really going to let this person work from home full time?

  22. “4. I understand that you have child care issues through this school year. As long as you keep me informed of your situation and devote full-time to your position here starting 2/5/07, you will be able to √¢‚Ǩ≈ìflex√¢‚Ǩ¬ù your hours on days that you need to attend to these issues.”
    Sounds full time to me!

  23. Nope, that’s not where I got it…but I thought if it was a public document, it would be easily available. I assumed it was a public document? It must be since it is for a town position.

  24. I don’t know Jimmy, but he stated his source was the Montclair Times and either the Times go it wrong, or Jimmy misread it as the position is not part time at $120k. It is part time for 1 month at $462/week then full time at $120k.

  25. He may have been talking about another position that is part time.
    I read the times on the web and it’s not posted there.
    Hey Jimmy- what was the title for the part time position?

  26. From the Government Record Council:
    “What records are accessible to the public?
    Generally, all government records are accessible to the public except those that fall under the exceptions to public access set forth in OPRA. Examples of public records that are accessible to the public include minutes of regular public meetings, budgets, bills, vouchers, and contracts, including collective bargaining agreements, individual employment contracts, and public employee salary and overtime information.”

  27. Have not seen the Times, but here is the first paragraph of the public release…
    “Township Manager Joseph Hartnett announced today the appointment of Gordon L. Stelter as Director of Finance and Chief Financial Officer for the Township of Montclair, effective February 5th, 2007. Mr. Stelter replaces Dianne Marus, who has retired effective January 1st, 2007. He will assume the CFO position on a part-time basis effective January 1. Township Controller Anthony Blasi will serve as Acting Director of Finance from January 1 through February 5.”
    The way it is worded can be confusing if you don’t take your time, but it says he is hired full time effective 2/5, but that from 1/1 to 2/5, he will be part time.

  28. Yes, the public release also mentions he currently works as the CFO for Fairfield, I assume until January 1st.

  29. Who says they “found” the $500,000? They raised the water rates 9.5% in 2006 and another 7% in 2007. Maybe they found the lost $500,000 in the taxpayers pockets based on these increases?

  30. I thought I remembered a statement from Harnett or Remsen in the Montclair Times saying that the $500,000 had been “found. I’ll backtrack and see if I can find it.

  31. Hartnett said that. But still, doesn’t a 9.5% and a 7% increase in the two years immediately following the lost (and found?) money seem suspicious?

  32. I agree. Especially since they wouldn’t come clean on the “finding” part.
    Anything that comes from Hartnett is BS

  33. OK, I just looked and the MTC Times article said that “Steller will assume the CFO post on a part-time basis effective Jan.1”
    The reporter left out the rest of the info, which is that he starts full-time in Feb.

  34. Ok, it’s not as clear as it could be, apparently, but what it says is, he will replace current CFO Marus on Feb. 1. But he will be part time from Jan. 1 until Feb. 1. Unfortunately, if you just read the one sentence and not the one before it, it does seem to be saying something else entirely.
    Sorry about that.

  35. Please talk to your reporter, There lots of us here who write for a living so it’s a tuff audience but that was sloppy reporting.

  36. hmm. I wouldn’t say it was sloppy reporting — the info was there, and correct. But the writing could have been clearer, certainly.
    As people who write for a living, we are all always striving to improve, to write more clearly, more concisely. And as people who write for a living, we know we all fall a little short sometimes. I know I do.
    Anyway, I only posted to give readers the link to the story, and to clarify any confusion. I also apologized for any confusion we caused.
    Thank you, though, for your input on how I should handle the situation.
    –Jessica

  37. “Effective Feb. 5, Gordon L. Stelter will replace Dianne Marus, who retires from the position next Monday, Jan. 1. Stelter will assume the CFO post on a part-time basis effective Jan. 1. Township Controller Anthony Blasi will serve as acting director of finance from Jan. 1 through Feb. 5, according to a municipal release.”
    “the info was there, and correct” – NOT NOT NOT
    I beg to differ. The fact that Stelter will be full time after Feb 5th is NOT mentioned anywhere. We are led to believe that he is being hired on a part time permanent basis.
    NOW THAT’S SLOPPY REPORTING!!!

  38. “Ok, it’s not as clear as it could be, apparently, but what it says is, he will replace current CFO Marus on Feb. 1. But he will be part time from Jan. 1 until Feb. 1. ”
    JEEEZ you can’t even quote your own publication correctly. Nowhere is the date Feb. 1 mentioned in your article.

  39. Dear NOT Hiding,
    Can you cut the acting as editor for the Montclair Times crap and get back to the subject matter?
    WHAT are we talking about? Editing, or government?
    WHAT IS YOUR POINT? perhaps you can start a separate discussion of the pros and cons of editing in a modern day newspaper.
    The rest of us want to talk about the shenanigans of Town Government!
    You seem like the kind of person who would be invited to a state diner and during question time you would complain about the position of the fork.

  40. Given the staff that the Montclair Times has I think they do an excellent, admirable job, of reporting!
    Consider the fact that they constantly bring to our attention issues that the Town considers “routine” but are anything but.
    Did you see the bit, for example, about the huge cost overruns from the BOE at the Woodman Field project, an article that appeared in the MT a week ago? Did you know about it before reading about it in the MT? Do issues like that concern you?
    I don’t work for the MT but I have lived in enough communities the size of Montclair to have seen ineffective community newspapers that worked best for wrapping fish.
    Stop nit picking about the MT. Write a letter to the editor, picket, visit the publisher or whatever if you’re unhappy.
    There’s a LOT of people who think the Times is doing a very good job!

  41. The Montclair Times only ran, word for word, the press release from the Town Manager. If you want to blame them, blame them for that….but the real issue is the possible loophole to allow the new CFO to work part time for other municipalities. Hartnett got blasted for this with the last CFO. Why would he leave the language in that may allow the new CFO to do the same thing? Arrogance.

  42. So, the Montclair Times doesn’t bother to read what they are going to publish.
    The Montclair Times doesn’t ask any questions and doesn’t bother to read the press release to see if it makes any sense.
    The Montclair Times just runs press releases from the town WORD FOR WORD.
    The Montclair Times allows reportert put their names on a press releases so that it looked like reporting.
    Shame on the Montclair Times.

  43. ” perhaps you can start a separate discussion of the pros and cons of editing in a modern day newspaper.”
    Maybe you should ask for a thread- this thread started out dicussing the Wellmont and morphed into the topic of the CFO. That’s fine but now you refuse to let it continue to morph.
    I don’t understand why you think YOU are the thread leader.

  44. “Given the staff that the Montclair Times has ”
    gotta love that backhanded compliment
    Who do you think hires the staff?

  45. Shame on Hartnett. How dare he tell the CFO that they can work a 2nd job during hours that Montclair is paying the CFO.
    Haven’t we been through this before???

  46. Anyone interested in learning more about how to save historic theatres such as the Wellmont might find some information at https://www.lhat.org, which is the website for the League of Historic American Theatres.

  47. What do we know about this guy that warrants Montclair him over $120,000 per year of our money?
    At that salary, why do we need to be sharing the CFO with Glen Ridge? Glen Ridge has their own CFO who as I understand it does a fine job.
    The complexity of keeping the books straight for Montclair would seem to me to be a full time job in and of itself and doesn’t need to be complicated by sharing this individual with another municipalty. And it sounds like with his childcare/flex time needs they will have their hands full just keeping things current for Montclair

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