Columbia County's resident ballet company has called the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center home since the facility opened in 2006.
Recent discord between the Columbia County Ballet and the theater's technical company, however, could lead the ballet's owners to find another venue.
"It's just gotten to be more than we're prepared to work with, so we're looking for other options," Columbia County Ballet Artistic Director Ron Jones said.
Moretz Production Service became the technical crew for the performing arts center when the library opened. The company's contract prevents Jabez from using any other service for its technical needs.
Jones said his problems with Moretz stem from high prices and a negative attitude toward the ballet's volunteers.
"We've worked with it for four years, and we're just at the point where we can't go any further with this because it's compromising our shows," Jones said. "It's compromising (the) morale of our people."
John Moretz, owner of Moretz Production, said Jones has only complained about fees, not the service.
"He's getting every bit of service that he can get out of us, and he still complains," he said. "He's unhappy with the service that's provided out there when the service has been stellar."
Moretz Production charges $35 an hour per employee and $52.50 per hour for overtime.
At the Imperial Theatre, the technical director, the highest paid employee on that crew, makes $22 an hour, according to the theater's Web site.
At Hull Fine Arts Center, a 350-seat theater at Augusta Preparatory Day School, technical costs vary depending on a performance, said Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Blair.
"It really depends on the group," she said. "That's always negotiable."
Moretz said his rates are comparable to other area venues'.
After the ballet's production of Swan Lake and The Velveteen Rabbit in September, Jones and other members of the ballet called a meeting with county staff and Moretz Production, but nothing was resolved, Jones said.
Moretz said the problem is partly a lack of communication, contending that Jones never contacts him in advance to discuss details about upcoming performances and fails to sell out shows.
During the ballet's past two performances at the Jabez, Jones complained that additional charges weren't initially listed by Moretz. A preliminary bill, listing an estimate of all previously discussed costs, is given to and signed by clients before a production, Moretz said.
"I don't have any bones to grind with Mr. Jones," Moretz said. "We've been there for five years. We hadn't changed the price in five years (and) we hadn't changed the policies in five years."
County Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith said he's received nothing but "glowing remarks" from renters using the theater and its technical crew.
"We've absolutely had no complaints whatsoever from anybody," he said.
Augusta Players rented the facility earlier this year for their production of Gypsy .
"It is a very nice facility; however, it's not really cost effective for us to be there," said Debi Ballas, executive director of the organization.
The Jabez, Ballas said, is more geared toward renting by the hour, which doesn't fit with their performances.
"The technical fees associated with using that theater are exorbitant," she said.
Despite the high prices, Ballas said, she never experienced any other problems with Moretz Production Service.
Smith maintains the costs associated with renting the Jabez, located inside the Columbia County Library in Evans, are in line with similar area venues.
The technical group was outsourced by the county as a way to avoid the cost of hiring technical staff, said Sandy Boner, manager of the county's Rental Facilities and Venues Department.
Moretz Production maintains about $750,000 worth of professional lighting and sound equipment, she said.
Boner said she has never witnessed any problems between Jones and Moretz.
"Any time I've been around the two of them together, each side has been extremely professional," she said.
Boner said she enjoys the relationships the county has formed with the Columbia County Ballet and Moretz Production.
"I feel that there is a benefit to the ballet being in our theater, and it disappoints me to think that they may be considering moving," she said.
The ballet has not decided where it will hold its annual performance of The Nutcracker on Nov. 13, Jones said. Recent performances were at the Jabez.
Smith noted that because the county allocates funds annually to the Columbia County Ballet, the organization agreed to provide three performances at the Jabez and the nearby amphitheater.
Jones, who said the situation has been "very disappointing," harbors no ill will toward the county or the facility.
"We've been very happy working with the county in the Jabez," he said. "The county has tried to basically bend over backwards to make this work, but the only thing they cannot adjust is the one thing we cannot work with."
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