Supporters of Arts Garage are calling Tuesday night’s city commission meeting “Judgment Day Part II.” It sounds like a movie sequel, with a new cast of characters — and a new plot twist.
In February, a group of about 50 people marched from the Arts Garage, a small music and theater venue on the ground floor of a city-owned parking garage on First Street and Second Avenue, to City Hall. They worried that commissioners would sell the Arts Garage’s prime location just north of Atlantic Avenue in the Pineapple Grove arts district, to a law firm for $2.5 million.
Then-mayor Tom Carney postponed a decision, asking the law firm, Kanner & Pintaluga, to discuss the matter with Bob Schmier, a member of the board of Creative City Collaborative, the nonprofit that runs Art Garage. Schmier matched the law firm’s bid, saying he would offer the Arts Garage a long-term lease until it could raise enough money to buy its own space.
Now Cary Glickstein is mayor and Shelly Petrolia is the newest member of the commission. Both are considered more sympathetic to the Arts Garage than Carney, who lost to Glickstein in a hard-fought mayoral race.
Before the commission are the same three alternatives proposed before the election: They can vote to sell the 10,000-square-foot space to either the law firm or Schmier and Fuerring, Schmier’s firm. Or they can choose to sell half the space to the law firm, leaving the Arts Garage in its current space. The third option would force a puppetry arts organization to relocate.
Now for the subplot: After rumblings during the election campaign, two state legislators on April 1 asked the state auditor to review whether the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency had the right to subsidize the Arts Garage, just over $300,000 a year for the past two years.
In 2010, then-state attorney Bill McCollum opined that the CRA in Sanford should not spend its money on tourism promotion and nonprofits. The Arts Garage is a nonprofit, but so is the city’s public library, which also receives CRA money.
At the April 2 city commission meeting, new mayor Glickstein launched a strong comeback to the proposed audit.
“I find the timing of this audit suspect and politically motivated,” he said. He questioned the motives of State Sen. Joe Abruzzo, who requested the audit. Then he wondered aloud why Abruzzo did not ask for an audit of the city’s $65 million no bid trash hauling contract, criticized by both Glickstein and Petrolia during the election campaign.
Glickstein said Abruzzo’s job as a government relations and public policy consultant with Weiss and Handler, the city’s lobbying firm, was an “obvious conflict of interest when we are paying a lobbyist who is also a regulator no auditing an agency of our city.”
Last week, the city severed its relationship with Weiss and Handler.