The Arts and Heritage Foundation (AHF) got a new lease on life Monday when council approved a five-year renewal of the current stewardship agreement, with “appropriate revisions” yet to be determined.
Only Coun. Len Bracko voted against a motion put forward by Coun. Wes Brodhead to renew the current agreement until 2017. Council took up Brodhead’s motion first, meaning the seven potential options council had previously approved for debate, ranging from negotiating a new agreement to stripping the AHF of all its responsibilities, never saw debate on the council floor.
“Quite honestly it’s hard to argue with success of the foundation,” Brodhead said in an impassioned defence of the foundation, referring to its work in fundraising, caring for the city’s heritage sites and its work with the arts.
“The organization provides a vehicle for individuals to express their support for arts, heritage and culture. Our citizens can truly express passion for the arts by engaging with the AHF,” he said.
The vote institutes a solution to a problem that seemed unsolvable when council broke for the summer. The deadline for reaching a solution had already been extended once as council and the foundation had been unable to renegotiate a new stewardship agreement.
A city report attracted the ire of the foundation’s board when it inferred that the foundation, in spending more than $200,000 from its reserves, was actually in deficit by that amount. When council moved in-camera July 9, instead of deciding a negotiating mandate, it developed its own seven options that set the stage for Monday’s vote which could have jeopardized the foundation’s very existence.
Previously, councillors and administration questioned everything from the duplication of services between the city’s own cultural services department and the foundation to potential cost-savings by bringing all the foundation’s services in house.
“I am convinced the City of St. Albert cultural staff they can do a great job. They’ve proved it time and again. But I also think the AHF has proven they do a fantastic job,” said Coun. Roger Lemieux. “Why can’t we join forces in a new stewardship agreement?”
Now the ball moves into the hands of city manager Patrick Draper, who, in the second part of the motion, was tasked with negotiating the revised agreement and reporting back to council by Oct. 22.
Exactly how that would happen was subject to almost as much debate as Brodhead’s motion. Coun. Cam MacKay’s motion for a special council meeting Thursday to provide Draper with a mandate was defeated, as was Coun. Malcolm Parker’s call for a governance consultant.
In the end, council accepted Mayor Nolan Crouse’s motion that all affected parties send their thoughts to Draper by Sept. 23, with that input forming the basis for any revisions to the existing stewardship agreement.
Also approved was a motion by Crouse eliminating from the foundation board the appointment of a member of council, a capacity currently served by Brodhead.
“We have more than 200 non-profits in this city and this is the only one we have representation on,” Crouse said.