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Funding for Tuacahn looks likely

Donors have pledged half the funds needed to rescue the Tuacahn Center for the Arts.

Doug and Gretchen Glendenning of St. George pledged $250,000 this week.Meantime, Tuacahn's interim chief executive officer, Hyrum Smith, said he has asked for the resignation of the entire Heritage Arts Foundation board, which oversees the center.

Saying the $23 million he poured into the center was all he could afford, Smith said Friday that he will close it down unless backers can raise $600,000 by November. Smith said Monday's pledge makes him confident about reaching the target.

"We're going to get this thing put on the right track," Smith said. "I'm very encouraged."

Washington County officials on Wednesday had given Smith a check for $50,000 in tourism-promotion funds from the county's tax on hotel and motel rooms.

Three members of the board are from northern Utah. The board has six members from southern Utah, including Smith, who has residences in both St. George and northern Utah.

"They've done a great job and have done the best they could," Smith said. "But we need to make it a more local board. What we want to have happen is to have local people feel ownership of Tuacahn."

The board will stay in place through the end of the year. Smith said he doesn't know whether southern Utahns on the board will be asked to stay beyond that.

Tuacahn has had a strained relationship with some southern Utahns who said they were not made to feel a part of the center. Smith enlisted more than 40 southern Utah civic and government leaders last week to do the fund raising.

Smith took over last week from Glenn Goodwin, the former interim CEO who is moving out of the area.

Two workers were laid off this week to save money.

Smith said he has cut the former director of finance and operations officer, Tom Lacosse, and the plaza-gift shop manager, Elizabeth Mullens. The layoffs leave Tuacahn with six paid employees, Smith said.

Both jobs, as well as several other top administrative posts, are now being held by volunteers.