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Frisco to end funding of proposed arts center
Frisco's days of being an owner city in the Arts of Collin County are numbered.
At Tuesday's city council meeting, Frisco Mayor Maher Maso announced the city would no longer pay maintenance and operations costs on the project after the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30. This move is in response to Frisco voters revoking $16.4 million in bonds for the project during the May election.
Still, there was no vote by the council to officially withdraw the city from the project. Maso, a known supporter of the project, made the announcement after a lengthy executive session.
"The city of Frisco has an approved budget through this fiscal year, which runs through September," Maso said. "Right now the Arts of Collin County project is being reviewed by all three cities. What we have heard from this council is that additional funding will not be available next fiscal year. We are going through the budget process right now and I don't see any need in continuing the maintenance and operations costs after this fiscal year."
After the meeting, Maso added that he would like to see the city work with Allen and Plano to find a way to end Frisco's involvement in the project.
When the bonds were placed back on the ballot, voters were told that even if the bonds were revoked, the city would be required to pay its share of maintenance and operations for the next three years. Supporters of revoking the bonds said this was a small price to pay in order to get out of the project.
It was believed the city would have to pay three years of costs due to Article II, Section 7B of the interlocal agreement signed by Frisco, Allen and Plano in 2004. The interlocal agreement mentions a "contribution agreement," which would stipulate how a city could remove itself from the project. The contribution agreement had several requirements, one of which was the payment of three years of M&O costs. However, the contribution agreement was never actually drafted and signed, so Frisco may not actually be held to the three years of payments.
Frisco's move could have ripple effects in the other two owner cities of Plano and Allen, as well as member cities Melissa and Fairview.
On Wednesday, Plano Mayor Phil Dyer said the decision by Frisco to stop funding the arts hall would affect the way Plano views the project.
"I don't think that Plano is going to be willing to fund the maintenance and operations after Sept. 30," Dyer said. "No decision has been made, but we are going to talk about it at the council next Monday. If Frisco officially pulls out, then that changes the project's dynamics completely."
Dyer said his reason for not wanting to continue M&O costs is due to Frisco voters revoking the city's bonds and Frisco apparently pulling out of the project.
"I cannot continue to support the project if it is only a two-city project," he said. "We don't know that Frisco is out yet but it appears they are. If that occurs, that would drive up Plano's portion of the maintenance and operations costs even higher, and I don't want to do that. If Frisco pulls out, I don't even want to continue paying the costs at the level we have been."
Each city's share of the M&O costs is based on population. Plano currently pays about 55 percent of the total cost, with Frisco paying about 25 percent. If Frisco and its population of about 120,000 people drop out of the project, Plano's share would increase to more than 70 percent.
ACC Executive Director Mike Simpson said he is not sure what to take away from the meeting other than that Frisco is willing to pay the M&O costs for the rest of this fiscal year. He said this is helpful since there are several costs the ACC will incur over the next few months. These costs include fighting a lawsuit filed by Plano resident Jack Lagos over the ownership of the ACC property, as well as changing presentations and material to reflect Frisco's non-involvement if the city officially withdraws.
While the interlocal agreement mentioned paying M&O costs for three years, Simpson said he is not sure what advice Frisco was given by its attorney.
"A lot of the future maintenance and operations costs were tied to the city's signing a contribution agreement," Simpson said. "There is no agreement, and their attorney may feel they are not obligated to pay since the agreement was never signed. There will be discussions between attorneys to interpret the meaning of the interlocal agreement."
Simpson said he remains positive and is going to continue fundraising efforts for the arts hall.
"We are going to work to try and move forward with four cities into the next fiscal year," he said. "Our goal is to be given more time to raise private funds that would cover the $16.4 million in bonds that Frisco voters revoked."
Attempts to reach Richard Abernathy, Frisco's attorney, were not successful.
The next scheduled meeting of the Arts of Collin County Board of Directors is June 23. The meeting is at 4 p.m. at Allen City Hall.