The Turlock City Council had a scheduled matter before them at Tuesday’s Council Meeting to consider entering into a Lease & Operation agreement with the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation (CACF).
City Manager Roy Wasden opened the issue by saying that Council Members and staff in closed session that the majority of Council provided clear direction regarding price and terms of payment for the operation and maintenance of the Carnegie.
“The agreement proposed by the CACF tonight, does not comply with the direction and terms given by Council,” said Wasden.
Attorney Scott Dorius and Foundation Advisory Committee Member explained that the CACF was originally involved in raising money to rebuild the physical facility and raised $400,000 over time and then $200,000 more.
Dorius pointed out that things changed from just rebuilding the Carnegie to if it will even be considered a prioritized RDA funded project to how CACF must pay to maintain and operate the city facility.
One of Council’s expectations was that the CACF use their $600,000 in endowment funds toward the construction of the Carnegie Arts Center.
The CACF’s proposed lease agreement includes keeping the $600,000 and using it for the operation and maintenance of the Carnegie.
Councilwoman Mary Jackson said “I think it’s time to make a decision”
Vice Mayor Ted Howze agreed that it is time to make a decision because “we provided clear direction and it’s not been met. Knowing that there’s only one course of action to take and that’s to deny the lease agreement.”
Councilwoman Mary Jackson asked for City Manager Roy Wasden’s recommendation as he manages the city and was included in the meetings with all parties.
“If we could meet the objective of operating this facility with no impact on the general fund, I think it would be a great project to have in our downtown,” said Wasden. “I think it would be wonderful to have if the Council were convinced that it could operate in that fashion.”
So is it financing the building or the operation or both that’s the issue?
The City Council has already earmarked RDA funds and other funding sources in previous years. The lowest bid that came in was about $2.5 million under the estimated $7.8 million.
Vice Mayor Howze brought it back to the principle that a majority of Council decided on terms in closed session and has required terms that have not been met, and therefore could not move forward with the proposed CACF’s lease agreement.
The public decision making began getting very confusing as many references to closed session discussions began to be more frequent.
City Manager Roy Wasden explained that the closed session discussions were needed as they are for other negotiations.
Councilwoman Jackson motioned to waive the $600,000 and agree to the CACF’s proposed lease agreement.
Mayor John Lazar recapped how he felt that Council was moving forward and didn’t want to jeopardize the project as he sensed that there wasn’t support for the proposed lease agreement by the majority of Council.
CACF Co-Chair Jeani Ferrari explained that the non-profit can’t give up the money, lose the interest, fund the construction, while operating and maintaining the city facility due to the lack of ability to fundraise during this economic time.
Councilwoman Amy Bublak stated that she worked with the Mayor on the sub-committee and thought that they were making headway.
“I don’t think we were there, I wanted to bring a final offer back. I feel that we were presented a final offer that we weren’t negotiating with,” said Bublak.
“Also I’m very uncomfortable with the process. My understanding is we don’t know where the RDA funds are. So to make this decision predicated on what if next week when we find out what the numbers are, I’m not making the best educated decision I can make.”
Howze brought it back to his feelings that waiting won’t make any difference in the fact that Council’s direction has not been met.
Two motions were entertained; Howze’s to deny the proposed lease agreement and Jackson’s acceptance of the lease agreement. Neither motion went forward.
Councilman Spycher defined the reality that there was support in closed session for this project but that the direction was not carried out.
Despite Mayor John Lazar, Councilwoman Amy Bublak, the City Attorney, and City Manager meeting with CACF representatives, this agendized proposal did not meet the majority of Council’s direction.
After giving CACF’s representative time to discuss what they want to do, Councilwoman Mary Jackson motioned to open up the confidential closed session discussion, have another presentation after the October 6, 2009 RDA meeting at the Council Meeting on October 13, 2009.
Councilman Howze asked if it is the same document coming back, what is the point of waiting and how would they discuss possible RDA fund allocations on October 6th for a project that they may not do down the road.
Dorius and Mayor Lazar both explained that negotiating may still take place because it is a living document and that the actual Carnegie project can still be a project dependent on funding.
Councilwoman Amy Bublak agreed to work with Mayor John Lazar, city staff, and CACF representatives to keep negotiating towards fulfilling the majority of Council’s direction.
The Turlock City Council voted 3-2 (Howze and Spycher opposing) to go forward with Councilwoman Jackson’s motion.
Vice Mayor Howze, at 11:10pm and after spending about 45 minutes on the issue, didn’t want to waste any time discussing what was said in closed session since everyone was already there.
The majority of Council polled said that they didn’t want to continue the discussion and would wait until October 13th.