The relationship between the Art Gallery of Northumberland (AGN) and the Town of Cobourg has not always been happy nor well defined since the AGN was established in 1960. The AGN occupies all of the third floor of the West Wing of Victoria Hall plus some storage locations on the second floor and the basement for a total floor area of 3,299 square feet. Up until recently, they have been charged $45,000 per year for rent but then granted that money in each year’s budget. Each year they also submit a request for about $170K more towards their budget of about $300K. The process of coming to an agreement has not been well defined so at the next Committee of the Whole Council meeting on November 15, a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a Lease Agreement are being presented for approval.
The two documents (lease and MOU) will have the same term – January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2026 – and will make it clear what the lease cost is and what the budget process is – but not the amount to be approved.
Basically free although there will be a nominal $1 fee. However, in addition, utility costs will be billed by the Town to the AGN as a proportion of the actual costs. The proportion will be based on the ratio of square footage (3,299/36,000) – this works out to $16,500 in the first year. It seems that these were not previously charged. Also, the AGN Board have regular meetings at Victoria Hall – their cost will now be invoiced by the Town to the AGN (para 6. 1 of MOU) on a cost recovery basis.
Annual Grant Process
The AGN will set a budget of Expenses and a budget of Revenue from sources other than the Town. The difference would constitute their budget/grant request to the Town. The amount approved for 2021 was $150K. It’s not specified what happens if the Town does not grant their request – presumably the AGN must then re-work their budget. The good news for the AGN is that the rent is taken out of the equation for 5 years.
Budget request for 2022
Olinda Casimiro, Executive Director of the AGN, has already submitted her request for 2022 – see link below (and file photo from 2019). Their budget is set at $302,000 and their request for the grant from the Town is $175,000 – up from $150,000 in 2021. They note that the increase is $25K and “… reflects: $16,500 Utilities; $8,500 increase to budget”. They expect $40K in Provincial grants and $25K in Federal grants with $20K in donations. It’s not obvious where they allocate the cost of renting board meeting rooms.
It’s a little weird that the MOU and Lease Agreement will formally come to Council after their budget request which assumes that these will be in place. Hopefully it will get sorted out.
By the Way – although the AGN is a major cultural attraction in Cobourg, it’s not in any of the Town’s Departments – it’s handled as a separate entity – like the Library and the Concert Band. So Olinda does not answer to any Director or Town Staff member – she reports to the AGN Board.
- AGN Budget request presentation – to be presented November 9
- Lease Agreement – from CoW Agenda, November 15
- MOU – from CoW Agenda, November 15
- Memo from Staff
Addendum – Nov 16
At the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on November 15, Councillor Beatty moved that secretarial support by the Town be NOT included in the MOU. Her motion passed 4-3. Otherwise the MOU and lease were approved subject to ratification at the Regular Council meeting on November 22.
Addendum – November 24
The MOU as amended per above were ratified at the regular Council meeting on November 22. So the MOU and Lease per above are now in effect.