Arts and Heritage reaches deal with city
Four board members, director have resigned in last month
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Friday, Jan 11, 2013 07:00 pm
Arts and Heritage and St. Albert have reached a new five-year stewardship agreement, but at the expense of almost 18 months of negotiations, a frayed relationship as well as several casualties.
Brent Luebke, who was selected as Arts and Heritage board chair Thursday night, confirmed the board voted in favour of the agreement put forward by the city in November. Five members of the board voted for the agreement, while one voted against and promptly resigned in protest.
That board member has been identified as Marilyn Wangler, one of three board members to resign this week and the fourth in the last two months.
“These are people who are resigning because they are upset,” said Luebke. “They said, 'We are not happy with this.' ”
Board members Bruce Thompson and Edith Finczak also resigned this week, but for different reasons – Thompson cited health issues and Finczak, reached by the Gazette, said she didn't “have the time for it” because she works full time.
In December executive director Paul Moulton resigned because of his displeasure with the proposed new agreement, as did former board member Sam Azer.
Director of heritage Ann Ramsden has been selected as acting executive director. Luebke said there will be no immediate search for a new executive director, but new reporting requirements in the new agreement could lead to a few new hires at Arts and Heritage.
“We are probably going to require a couple of more people literally to shuffle paper,” Luebke said.
Luebke said the board dealt with two motions at its Thursday meeting – the first to vote in favour of the city's agreement and the second to try and talk with the city in an attempt to tweak a few items in the agreement before it is signed.
“(Staff) talked with the board (Thursday) night and said they think there is a lot of opportunity with the agreement going forward,” Luebke said. “There are far more positives than negatives.”
Ultimately, the board had little choice other than to approve the deal, Luebke said. City council issued an ultimatum on Monday saying it would take over the city's art and heritage assets if the board did not vote for the new agreement, which would have left Arts and Heritage without any responsibilities. Staff at the foundation also learned there was no money allotted to it from the city past Jan. 14, the day the old agreement was set to expire.
“We knew we had to make a decision. We had a bunch of staff that had to be paid,” said Luebke. “We were trying to continue to negotiate and the city clearly stated, 'We're done negotiating.' What could we do?”
The new agreement, spearheaded by city manager Patrick Draper, will take effect on April 1. The old agreement, set to expire Jan. 14, will govern matters between the two sides until the end of March.
Draper said one change in the new deal is appointing a steering committee, made up of three staff members from both the city and Arts and Heritage, to improve the working relationship between two sides. Other changes include requiring more detailed business plans from Arts and Heritage, as well as avoiding any duplication of arts services between both sides.
The “fee-for-service” model, which would require Arts and Heritage to submit invoices in order to receive funds, instead of the grant process used previously, was also approved. The fee-for-service model has drawn sharp criticism from both Moulton and members of the board.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said he was saddened to hear some board members resigned, but added he's glad the drawn-out process is over.
“I'm very happy that this is behind us,” said Crouse. “I think this is what we as a council had wanted. We wanted the agreement and it's one that maybe wasn't preferred compared to what (Arts and Heritage) wanted, but at least it's a done deal.”
Negotiations have been up and down since they began in 2011. The dispute has repeatedly spilled out into the public with both sides making their objections known. The city produced a report over the summer accusing the foundation of being $200,000 in deficit, which Arts and Heritage said was spending from its reserves. Armed with a range of options, including taking over the foundation's responsibilities, council voted instead to negotiate a new agreement. A renewed sense of hope that emerged from that meeting quickly wasted away as both sides jockey over a funding model.
Council will discuss the agreement on Monday behind closed doors.