by Max Brantley
The local government hierarchy is doing what it can to enable Gunn's commercial TV enterprise. This includes an effort by county government to amend a contract with the state that prevented all but county government use of the historic Washington County courthouse so that she may film in her former courtroom. The contract, known as a conservation easement, was entered in 1989 in exchange for state help in an exterior renovation. Mona Hughes, the federal programs manager for the state Historic Preservation Program, said Washington County Attorney George Butler had requested an amendment to the conservation easement to remove the restriction on private use of the historic structure.
The state is likely to approve the change by the first of next week, Hughes said. “It’s not something we’re particularly interested in enforcing,” she said. The goal of the easements is preservation, rather than a concern about building use. Conservation easements issued today don’t include the exclusion, she said. Missy McSwain, the state’s deputy historic preservation officer makes the final decision and is expected to do so early next week.
LIGHTS CAMERA ACTION. Fayetteville sources indicate filming is underway, with a new slant focusing on success of past drug court participants. A number of wrinkles developed in Gunn's original plans to rely on state agencies and courts to supply real-life "actors" for her production, not the least the lingering question the ethics advisory opinion. The show can tell "after" stories of former court participants. Can they pair these with "before" stories by accessing the tapes of past programs produced by the Jones Television affiliate of the Jones Trust in Springdale? That's another question yet to be answered. The final versions of the show — edited from court proceedings — are in the public domain, but all the film footage is not.
UPDATE: Here's County Judge Marilyn Edwards' memo on use of two floors of the courthouse for $1,000 per filming:
I wanted to keep you all up to speed regarding the leasing of the Historic Courthouse. The Lease is attached to this memorandum. As you can see, the County will be paid $1,000 per filming.
You should also note that we are requiring the Lessee; Occasio, LLC, to provide liability insurance with the County as a co-insured. This insurance has been procured per the attached certificate.
The number of filmings is undetermined at this time but will take place on Saturdays with occasional filming done on Sunday.
I believe that the Lease contains more than ample provisions to protect our beautifully restored courthouse.
A formal news release will be issued on Monday concerning the details of this Lease.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.