Confusion forces city to pull item from agenda and head back to the negotiating table.
In a bizarre turn of events, Santa Clarita City staff has withdrawn a recommendation to dissolve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with College of the Canyons regarding the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center.
The MOU was drafted in 1999 after the city donated $2.4 million to add 300 seats to the Performing Arts Center, which was in the planning phase at that time. As a result of that contribution, COC gave the city the right to decide which community performance groups used the space for 32% of the weekend dates.
Also in the MOU was a determination to establish a deferred maintenance fund for the top-of-the-line facility, now in its fifth year. That fund, as of yet, has not been established.
COC and city staff entered into negotiations recently, and emerged without an agreement on how to move forward with the MOU. According to testimony from both COC Chancellor Dr. Diane Van Hook and City Manager Ken Pulskamp, they also agreed that they would dissolve the MOU if they could not reach an agreement.
When city staff presented their plan to dissolve the MOU, a majority of the dissenting opinions came from local performance organizations who were using the city's designated time at the PAC. They voiced concerns that without a guaranteed 32% of weekend time going to the local non-profits. they may have their priority downgraded in favor of bigger name for-profit acts.
COC officials vehemently denied that such a occurrence would take place, and told the Council that they are committed to the local performance groups. They said their commitment was evidenced by their announcement that even if the MOU was dissolved, the current policies would stay in effect for the next 18 months.
After several rounds of public comment, COC Board of Trustees member Joan MacGregor addressed the Council and said that the entire board is disappointed that this issue was up for vote, and that they wish the city would reconsider dissolving the MOU.
"This is your decision, not COC's," she said.
With MacGregor's testimony, a shock wave ran through the Council, as they struggled to understand where city staff stood on the matter.
The events forced City Manager Ken Pulskamp to recommend that the item be pulled from the agenda and that the negotiations be started again, since he too thought that concurrence had been reached.
The source of the confusion was that the Council members had been told that the city staff and COC were in complete agreement on the matter. However, exactly what the two entities were in agreement of was misunderstood.
COC and city staff agreed that if they could not negotiate a satisfactory plan to keep the MOU alive, then they should dissolve it and move on. They did NOT, however agree that they each wanted the MOU to dissolve.
The distinction of wanting to dissolve the MOU is an important one. The Council was faced with accepting that the negotiations to form a new MOU had broken down. Instead, Council members did not accept that, and supported City Manager Ken Pulskamp's request to withdraw the item and revisit it.
Now, as the city heads into a new round of talks with COC aimed at keeping the city/college partnership alive, they will have to determine what additional financial contribution the city should be required to make on a regular basis to keep the PAC running. In these tough financial times, any additional contribution may be too much.
That could force the Council, city staff and College of the Canyons to get creative.
Other Council news:
The City Council also voted in favor of authorizing the acquisition of several parcels of property in downtown Newhall in order to continue with plans to build a new library at the corner of Lyons Avenue and Main Street.