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Arts Center MOU Re-Drafted

Arts center memorandum up for second public hearing.

The Town Council was presented with two revised copies, and one memorandum from Mayor Michael O'Reilly, at its work session Oct. 5 concerning the Memorandum of Understanding between the Town of Herndon and the Foundation for the Cultural Arts in Herndon to build the Cultural Arts Center.

The first draft of the Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, was deferred by council at its Sept. 14 public hearing after members of the council heard from concerned citizens on how the Cultural Arts Center will be funded. Many of the concerns dealt with whether or not tax-payer money would be used to fund the construction.

The MOU was deferred until the Oct. 12 public hearing at the request of town attorney Richard Kaufman so that he could have some time to go over the wording with Town Council and the foundation to reach an agreement.

"WHAT WE'RE FACED with is trying to decide, trying to understand, the ultimate goal here," said Councilman Steven Mitchell at the work session. "There is a lot of misinformation out there, we're not explaining our positions and people are only taking bits and pieces."

Mitchell stressed the importance of the council's role in the community to present residents with accurate information so they can decide whether or not they would like to see an arts center constructed.

But he added, right now the focus is on getting the ball rolling, not the final construction of the building.

"We are so far from knowing," said Mitchell about what the final outcome will be for the center. "Our discussions should be how to create a positive thing to let the arts people move forward and show us how it's done."

Councilman Dennis Husch, presented the council and town staff with a memorandum that he had created that took into account citizen's concerns about funding, drafting it from the original MOU.

"There was a lot of discourse, verbally and through e-mail, of our draft of the MOU we looked at here one month ago," said Husch about why he created a modified MOU. "The second draft was just perfecting the language in the first one, it didn't address the comments from those who are stakeholders of this process."

Husch summarized his modified MOU stating the town's role in the creation of the arts center should be to accept the funds raised by the foundation, build the arts center, do the engineering, the construction and all that is involved on the land the town purchased at the Center Street location.

"This Town Council has the inherent authority to allocate the funds ... as a part of the town's normal budget," said Husch, adding once the foundation raises the money, they can take it and add it to the annual budget for the sole purpose of the construction.

MITCHELL SAID for now, the focus of the council should not be on when the facility will be constructed, because he believes that will come in the future for other councils to decide.

"I want to see an MOU that moves us forward," said Mitchell of the council's current task. "That gives the arts council what they need, to show them we support them."

Another issue that came up was the issue of cost and the amount of money listed in the MOU that the foundation has to raise.

The current MOU lists $3 million as an amount the foundation is looking at, but they expect that cost to be much more.

Members of the council decided they wanted all specifics of money to be taken out of the MOU, so that they don't cap the foundation at raising only a specific amount, and then get stuck with the possibility of having to raise the rest.

O'Reilly sent out a memorandum to council that lists other areas of revenue the town could use to fund the project if necessary. He emphasized that the rumor that real estate taxes would go up to fund the center's construction was not true, and that the town in fact decreased taxes by 4 cents over the last three years and was still able to fund the construction at the Herndon Community Center.

"I think we need to put something down to get the ball rolling," said O'Reilly.

The council decided to combine the two MOUs, the one Kaufman redrafted and the one Husch presented to the members, address an e-mail sent by the foundation concerning certain wording in the MOU and hear more public comment at the Oct. 12 public hearing, before making any more decisions.