August 09, 2012The Greensboro Performing Arts Center Task Force was scheduled to get another $213,000 at the Greensboro City Council meeting on Monday, August 6, but the vote was delayed to the meeting on Tuesday, August 21.
No reason was given for the delay, but since the item was added as an addendum, which means it doesn't get the scrutiny of a regular agenda item, the speculation was that the votes were not there to pass it.
When the Performing Arts Center Task Force was appointed, it was an all-volunteer group that wasn't going to cost the taxpayers a dime and was going to develop a plan to build and finance a downtown performing arts center.
A multitude of meetings later we may be no closer to a downtown performing arts center since the funding, location, type, size, color, parking (on site or off site), management, and just about anything else you can mention is all up in the air. The project created one paid job, which went to Mayor Robbie Perkins' campaign manager, Ross Harris. The project has already cost the city $50,000. Now Perkins wants the city to toss another $213,000 into the all-volunteer no-cost endeavor.
In the world of the City Council, items are often added as addendums to the agenda because those in favor of the item don't want a bunch of folks showing up in opposition. Since far fewer people know about items that are added at the last minute this is a maneuver that has been successful for whoever was running the council. The fact that the money for the performing arts center was added as an addendum means opposition was expected, but also that Perkins thought he had five votes to pass it. The fact that it was delayed means at least one of those votes was wavering.
Councilmember Dianne Bellamy-Small, who participated in the Monday night meeting by phone, once again expressed her disagreement with not considering the Coliseum site for a performing arts center.
The $213,000 will be used to hire professionals to continue the work that volunteers and one employee have been doing.
According to the budget handed out to the City Council, the cost for the city is divided up with $145,000 for consultants, $10,000 for renderings and design models, $25,000 for travel expenses for consultants and $33,000 for research into management models used at other performing arts centers, for a total of $408,260.
The numbers don't work because according to the budget given to the City Council the private sector is going to provide $195,260, but the City Council and the people of Greensboro are not given a clue how that money is going to be spent. The $195,260 could be paid to one individual to manage the process. It could buy a condo for the consultants to meet in while they are here. Or it could be used to buy huge advertisements in locally owned weekly publications to gain public support for the project. The council simply wasn't provided that information.
The City Council is expected to allocate $213,000 for a $408,260 project with no indication of how the other money will be spent. If the taxpayers of Greensboro are being asked to put another $213,000 into a project that was supposed to be no cost, the least they should receive is the information about of how the other money is being spent.
It certainly appears that now that committees of the task force have gotten together and discussed everything about a performing arts center to death, the city is being asked to hire consultants to come in and make some professional recommendations.
Remember, when this project started the goal was to have something to put on a bond referendum in November. That was the reason for the frenzy of meetings.
If Perkins can find five votes to pass this expenditure the city will have spent $263,000 on an all-volunteer project that wasn't supposed to cost the city anything.