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New director takes over at Memorial Opera House as renovation plans continue

Memorial Opera House

The Memorial Opera House's new director is quickly getting to work. The hiring of Megan Stoner was announced during Monday's Porter County Commissioners meeting. She replaces Scot MacDonald, who resigned earlier this summer.

Stoner said she grew up in Chesterton and, after 23 years away, returned to the area in January. "And I'm very pleased and glad to be back in Porter County — very, very happy and excited about this position, as well," Stoner told the commissioners.

Stoner immediately finds herself trying to balance a much-discussed renovation project with the Opera House's regular calendar of plays and events. When asked about the possibility of postponing one of next year's productions to clear a three-month block for construction next summer, Stoner said it would be more feasible simply to cancel it. But either way, she said, the county would have to make up for the lost revenue.

"We're looking at a loss of over $100,000," Stoner said. "So if you want us to cancel the show, we need to find $100,000, essentially. That's the bottom line."

Still, Dawn Miller, a vocal critic of the Opera House renovation, suggested that the Opera House staff should deal with the lost revenue themselves. "They should've been well aware, 'Hey, we've got this $5 million.' You guys are getting it. Suck it up. Figure out a way to get it. You got the money," Miller said during public comment.

Next door to the Opera House, plans to rent out the former Porter County sheriff's residence appear to have fallen through, after A&Z Engineering withdrew its rental bid.

The commissioners voted two-to-one Monday to reopen the bid process. If that still doesn't work, they can hire an outside broker.

Laura Blaney cast the opposing vote. She wants the residence to be used as office space for the Opera House, something that had previously been proposed as part of the renovation project.

"It's right next door, and our people don't even have anywhere to sit down in there, let alone store a file or have any privacy," Blaney said.

Still, commissioner Barb Regnitz hopes that renting the building out would bring in money to reimburse renovation costs and eventually help pay for its upkeep.