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Fate of arts center still up in the air: Cities, board waiting on Frisco to vote on dissolution
The future of the Arts Center of North Texas once again lies in Frisco's hands.
Several weeks after a dissolution resolution was passed by the city councils of fellow owner cities Plano and Allen, no action has been taken by Frisco. The item was not on the city's most recent council agenda, but Frisco Mayor Maher Maso said he believes it will be voted on soon.
"I hope it will be on the next one," Maso said. "There were a few minor questions that we were working through and there were some council members who wanted some clarification on a number of issues."
The idea to dissolve the project originated in Frisco last year after voters revoked the city's authority to sell bonds to fund the project. At that time, council members began to call for the dissolution of the project so Frisco could recover some of its investment.
Maso declined to comment on what additional information the council was looking for, but sources close to the situation said it revolved around how much money would be split among the three owner cities.
Under the agreement, any unrestricted monetary assets would be split evenly among the three cities. The most valuable asset, the land, has an estimated value of more than $20 million and would be given back to its donor.
If the resolution is approved by Frisco, the donor will be free to do as she chooses with the land.
Bobby Baggett, the president of the Arts Center's board, said the exact amount of money available to be split is still undetermined.
"Conservatively, it is going to be somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million," he said. "There are some issues we have to go through as a board and as an organization that we have to figure out. I can't comment specifically on anything until the board meets and we deliberate this in open session."
The organization currently has about $2.4 million in cash on hand. Baggett did not go into specifics on which donations are restricted. However, a $750,000 donation from the AT&T Foundation and a $90,000 donation from Robbie Robinson were mentioned as potentially restricted by then-acting executive director Mary Vail-Grube in a February 2012 email.
While he said no secret agreements have been made, or even discussed, Baggett said he feels there is still support for a regional performing arts center on the 124-acre property along State Highway 121 near Custer Road in Allen.
"The key is to see if the region still supports a regional performing arts center, and if so, do they support it at this location," he said. "If the answer to either one of those questions is no, then fine, we need to fold up our tent and go on to other causes."
Any new work toward a performing arts center would need to wait until the economy fully turned around, Baggett said. The center should also focus on all of North Texas, not just Collin County in order to lessen the financial burden faced by any one city, he said.
"We wouldn't be beholden to just two or three cities," Baggett said. "My view, and the view of a lot of our supporters, is to create a truly regional organization with a large board that would have representation from the entire area."
Talk of a re-donation of the land and a new arts center may be premature since the fate of project is still up in the air. Regardless of what decision is made, the owner cities will continue to work together on a variety of projects, Maso said.
"The cities have been working on it together and we have a good dialogue going on," Maso said. "We are dedicated to having a positive outcome that benefits all three cities."