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Plano City Council approves resolution to dissolve Arts Center of North Texas (Updated)
This story was originally posted at 11 p.m. on Oct. 8
The Plano City Council took the first step in the dissolution of a controversial three-city arts center during a regular meeting Monday.
The council passed a resolution to give the 124-acre Arts Center of North Texas property back to its donor, Janice Brittingham. The resolution will also return any restricted assets back to their donors. Any remaining money will be split evenly among the project's three owner cities, Plano, Allen and Frisco.
With Plano's approval, the only thing standing in the way of the dissolution of the decade-old project is the approval of the resolution by the Allen and Frisco city councils. Allen will vote on the item at its meeting Tuesday, with Frisco expected to vote at a meeting in the coming weeks.
“This was a compromise between the three cities,” Plano City Manager Bruce Glasscock said. “The board will have to take action to begin doing what the resolution says. They will take action to return the land and to dissolve the corporation. Whenever they finish, whatever bottom line is left will be divided three ways.”
The ACNT has about $2.4 million in cash on hand, but a portion of those funds are considered restricted and will be returned to the donors, Glasscock said. Therefore, it is unknown exactly how much each city will receive if Allen and Frisco pass the resolution as expected.
An email from the center's then-acting director Mary Vail-Grube to Plano City Attorney Diane Wetherbee in February 2012 listed three potential restricted assets. Those assets included $750,000 from the AT&T Foundation. In her email, Vail-Grube wrote, “They have stated in writing, although not in any agreement upfront, that the funds are to be used only for construction expenses related to the [performing arts center].”
Glasscock said he believes the AT&T Foundation's donation is one of the restricted assets. If the board determines this is the case, the amount of cash available to be split among the cities would be reduced by nearly one-third.
Another donation mentioned in the email was $100,000 from Kenneth Sellers for a new piano, an amount of money Glasscock said was not included in the $2.4 million.
The final donation mentioned in the email is $90,000 from Robbie Robinson for construction expenses. However, the email states that if the donation is not used for construction, it may be used by the cities to fund arts and culture, a clause Glasscock said has led to uncertainty over whether the donation is restricted.
The determination of what is restricted will be made by the ACNT board, Wetherbee said.
The major asset owned by the ACNT is the land, which has a value of $22 million on the organization's Aug. 31, 2012, balance sheet.
The idea of selling the land and splitting the profits among the three cities has been discussed for several months, but it is unclear if this option was ever officially “on the table” since Wetherbee said that information was privileged.
However it is unlikely that the Allen City Council, which has remained the project's staunchest supporter, would have agreed to sell. Since all three cities must agree, the idea of selling the land may not have been feasible.
The project's board of directors supported spinning off the project into a separate nonprofit, which would allow the assets to remain intact. While Allen's council would likely have supported this, the Frisco City Council voted the proposal down before the remaining two council's had a chance to vote. At an apparent standstill, the compromise to return the land to the original donor was reached, Glasscock said.
Mayor Phil Dyer, a supporter of the project since its inception, recently said it was clear the project was not going to succeed in its current state and that Plano made the correct decision in pulling its funding. Still, he said, he takes no joy in voting to dissolve the ACNT.
“Personally I am disappointed that we have gotten to this point,” Dyer said. “I think this area, Collin County, will look up very soon and say, 'We wish we had a performing arts center.' To try and do it again in five or 10 years will be much more expensive.”
This story will be updated as more information comes in.