Glenwood considers severing contracts with arts center


City officials were tipped in 2015 and 2016 about concerns regarding art center finances, but deferred to the nonprofit's board.

Glenwood Springs City Council is set to take up the question of whether to continue the city’s financial support and facility lease for the Glenwood Center for the Arts.

On the table for a 6 p.m. special council meeting tonight is a proposed notice to the arts council terminating the lease for the city-owned former electric building at 601 E. Sixth St., and ending the city’s contract providing financial support to the arts council.

That contract requires the arts center to maintain “complete and accurate financial records” to be inspected by the city. Annual rent of $10 for the facility also has not been paid for the year, according to City Attorney Karl Hanlon.

Recent scrutiny of the arts center’s finances and evidence of mismanagement is contained in an audit turned over to the city last month suggesting tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized expenses and non-sufficient fund fees.

“The results of this audit implicated the arts council’s failure to oversee and monitor the former executive director, which contributed to the arts center’s current position.”— Karl Hanlon,city attorney

“The results of this audit implicated the arts council’s failure to oversee and monitor the former executive director, which contributed to the arts center’s current position,” Hanlon writes in a memo to City Council.

He went on to note that the arts center had a net operating loss in 2014 of $1,926, and by 2015 that loss had reached $121,703. A $10,000 grant from the city this year for public art displays remains unaccounted for, Hanlon said.

“We also understand that the arts center’s teachers are still owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages,” he continued. “The rapid deterioration … under the arts council’s poor oversight clearly implicates a violation of the public arts contract and the potential misappropriation of funds that is sufficient to terminate both agreements for legal non-compliance.”

Because the arts center is trying to get its financial ship in order and offer fall programs, however, it’s worth a full council discussion to decide how to proceed, Hanlon said.

Also on the agenda is a proposed city ordinance to form an advisory arts and culture commission.

Among the questions before council is how to support the arts in the future. The proposed advisory council is seen as a way to “better understand and meet the needs of the community when it comes to the arts,” Hanlon said.

Last month, City Council decided not to support financially the arts council’s efforts to try to rebuild the organization. In fact, the city is revisiting its financial arrangement in support of both the arts council and the Glenwood Springs Historical Society.

For several years, the city has provided funds from the special acquisitions and improvements fund tax to support both organizations. The city even has classified the executive directors of both entities as city employees.

Continued financial support for the arts center and the historical society was also included in the ballot language when the A&I tax was re-authorized by voters last fall. However, unlike the original tax question in 1998, that funding was not made mandatory, Hanlon said.

Arts Council President Kate McRaith said the board is committed to keeping the arts center open, and will lobby the city for continued support.

“We are working really hard to identify and rectify any questionable situations,” she said. “Right now we just want to make sure we can acquire enough money to pay our teachers and our outstanding creditors. That’s what is motivating all of our decisions right now.”

McRaith said the lease violation is just a misunderstanding amid the recent turmoil, and that she hopes the city will continue the building lease through to its December 2019 expiration date.

“We are doing everything we can to try to keep the center running, because we believe it plays a valuable role in the community,” she said. “It would be sad to lose that.”

She said the arts council is also planning a special meeting of its own next Tuesday to try to drum up more membership support and come up with solutions.

“If that means continuing with a different board, I’m open to that,” she said. “Our aim is our service to the community.”

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