Newsletter: Apr 20, 2022

Commission Votes 3-2 for Public Input on Fate of Old School Square

Citing lack of public input, budget considerations and lack of planning, Commissioners Ryan Boylston, Adam Frankel and Shirley Johnson voted to table entering into an agreement with The Boca Raton Museum of Art to manage the Cornell Museum at Old School Square.

The April 5 Commission vote stopped a headlong rush to remedy the consequences of what Boylston had called a "hasty" 3-2 vote last August.  That action abruptly terminated the City's 35-year relationship with Old School Square Center for the Arts without public notice or comment, leaving the Cornell Museum shuttered and the cost of finishing the Crest Theatre renovation in the laps of Delray's taxpayers.

Mayor Petrolia and Commissioner Juli Casale wanted a different outcome: the approval of a Resolution allowing the City to purchase "art and talent/artistic services" that "are specifically exempt from the competitive process" from the Boca Museum, according to the Agreement's preamble crafted by City Manager Terrence Moore.  

Delray's City Charter requires Commission approval for purchases over $65,000.  The Agreement amount up for approval, a $125,000 fee to be paid to the Boca Museum for its set up costs and the first six months of its services, was also not in the City's 2021-2022 budget -- one that was patched over by COVID relief funds and funding some Departments at 75%, including the Police

However, the Resolution to be voted on did not mention that the Agreement with the Boca Museum was exempt from the competitive process.  Nor did it mention the $125,000 fee to be paid to the Boca Museum.

Petrolia and Casale also painted the Agreement as a temporary fix to "reactivate" the shuttered Cornell Art Museum.

However, the agreement called for an 18-month term, with a three-year option to renew.  The fee for the subsequent 12 months would be negotiated during the upcoming 2022-2023 budget process, which could amount up to a new $250,000 budget line item.  Fee negotiations with the Boca Museum for the next three-year period would also occur during the regular annual budget process if the option to renew was exercised.

If the Resolution had passed, discussions regarding the Boca Museum and the terms of the Agreement would have taken place only among the Commissioners, without public comment or input -- and only as a line item on a budget to be approved in subsequent fiscal years.

"Now we are having a conversation (about OSS) for the first time," said Boylston after he stated he could not be in favor of approving the Agreement.  "All without one workshop or one plan...not even a public Charrette with a City that seems to have a Charrette over everything...At no point have we taken the time to have a conversation on any of this."

Other new expenses not in the budget and revealed during the discussion, would have included at least $100,000 for interior painting and repair necessary to ready the Cornell for the Boca Museum's occupancy, as well as payment of all utilities; the purchase of security cameras and 24-hour surveillance; interior janitorial, window washing, pest control and fire inspection fees.  These expenses, among others, had previously been paid for by the OSS non-profit.  

"Do you have the $100,000 in the budget?" Johnson asked of Moore after his presentation.

"We have other areas to pull from," Moore responded, having stated earlier that he found "ancillary efficiencies" of $300,000 and had the ability to tap into Delray's $190,000 contingency funds.

"We can do it in a planned budget," countered Boylston at one point in the at times heated discussion. "I'm excited that Mr. Moore has found $300,000 but I remember a list that we haven't funded in the last budget. I think that would be first on the list with that found money."

"The whole grand scheme, I personally have issues with," said Frankel. "I'm just concerned that if it was the reverse, if Delray Museum decided to come to Boca to run anything, they'd be rioting in the streets.  I don't say that jokingly...I think more conversations need to happen. I'm glad to see it looks like there'll be a first step..."

"I like that idea," said Johnson.  "I really think that there's been a clamor for let's just slow down, repair the place, clean it up, allow the public to tell us what they want...Workshop? You say it and I'm there."

Boylston described what he considered a necessary pause as "the summer of art at Delray, art from our city" that would be held in parallel with public conversations about Old School Square and what Delray residents would like it to be.  "This could be a special moment if we do it right."

"I'm just remarkably disappointed," said Casale when it became evident that three Commissioners would not vote for the Agreement.  "...We're going to be having little old ladies with art on the Avenue and they (Boca Museum) were going to bring amazing things to our City.  The likes of which we have yet to experience."

"The whole time I keep hearing on the street, it's gone dark, it's gone dark, it's gone dark and what are we doing here, but keeping it dark," added Petrolia. "We have this group that's temporary...but what we're going to do is the Delray way. Let's go ahead and, you know, keep it the way it is and let everybody continue to talk to me about what a terrible decision that we made."

"...Yes, I do want to do it the Delray way," Boylston said in response.  "And that means open, public comments and communication...put an actual strategy in place."

"...Not to discredit the non-profit OSS, they were not engaging with the community," said Casale. "...People coming from New York and the surrounding community will really appreciate a quality museum. We're changing in Delray and we have to embrace that change...the older Delray people who have been here a long time they say, yeah, OSS is amazing but in reality, if someone were to come from the outside and look at that place, they would say underutilized, not really the most amazing programming.   Yeah, the free concerts are a lovely thing to provide the residents.  What was the theatre doing and the Museum was -- I like the Museum because it featured local artists but there's no reason that can't stop.  I think we have to address where we're at...We have been giving OSS nine hundred thousand a year -"

"$750,00, mostly, not nine hundred" Petrolia interrupted, correcting Casale's misstatement regarding the funding received by the OSS non-profit, which was in the form of an annual grant from the CRA and has not been in the City's budget for several years.

Boylston made a motion to deny (agenda item) 11E, seconded by Frankel.

The roll was called. Petrolia and Casale voted "no" in tandem, as they had last August when they voted "yes" to terminate the OSS non-profit's lease.  Boylston's motion to deny entering into an Agreement with the Boca Museum passed 3-2.

Editorial Notes:

After we read over the 11-page Agreement, it was clear that obligations to be assumed by the Boca Museum (BMRA) were far less specific or as onerous as those borne by the OSS non-profit under its 47-page lease.  Not mentioned above:

The agreement did not call for audited financial statements and simply states that "the Executive Director shall make all records, reports, financial statements and other documents related to BRMA's obligations" under the Agreement "available to the City Manager".   There is no timeframe for these items except: "BRMA shall provide quarterly reports to the City which shall include a description of the principal activities, programs, exhibitions and services provided to and for the Museum during the immediate three-month time period."

There was no accounting for additional costs to the City in the attachments provided under Agenda Item 11E, "Operation and Management Agreement involving the Boca Raton Museum of Art to support activities at the Cornell Art Museum".

The agreement also stated: "The BRMA will set its own fee schedules as approved by the BRMA Board of Trustees.  Subject to the parties' final agreement with respect to the funding associated with BRMA' s obligations hereunder, it is BRMA' s intention to provide free admission to the Museum's exhibits."  This apparently leaves Delray taxpayers paying to see the Cornell's exhibits either through negotiated management fees or at the door if the Boca Museum's Board felt it necessary to "set its own fee schedules".  The OSS non-profit had provided free admission.

For more information: Go to "Meetings and Agenda" on our website and click on Agenda to read the proposed Agreement and Resolution.

Please watch the video for the full discussion.

Best Regards,

The Friends Of Delray Board

Judy Mollica - President

Steve English - Treasurer

Gregg Weiss - Secretary

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