Mix 106.5

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

City, Art Gallery Foundation at Odds

Owen Sound | by Matt Hermiz  

Owen Sound council approves paying unpaid balance owed to website developer; intends to recoup funds from Foundation

The City of Owen Sound is getting stuck with a $30,000 bill the Tom Thomson Art Gallery Foundation failed to pay.

And the city intends to slap the bill right back on the Foundation.

Council approved a motion at its meeting Monday night to pay an outstanding invoice of $30,315.08 to website developer Trillium Coast and will in turn bill the Tom Thomson Art Gallery Foundation for the same amount.

Director of Corporate Services Kate Allan says the city learned about amounts owning to Trillium Coast upon the Tom Thomson Art Gallery returning as a city department. At that time, the chair of the Foundation informed the city it was not going to continue to pay costs relating to a website development project for the Art Gallery.

"The Foundation was incorporated to support the Tom Thomson Gallery," Allan says. "I'm assuming that if there are any efforts or a proposed project they would like to support going forward, that we would partner with them, it would only be under the circumstance that this invoice gets paid."

"I would sort of say, until this is resolved, their hands are somewhat tied as to how they invest the remaining funds they do hold."

Allan says the current status of the Foundation isn't quite clear, noting there has been recent turnover and it has a new chair.

Councillor Richard Thomas told staff it is his understanding the Foundation remains in operation and do still have funds in its account.

The Foundation operates independently from the Art Gallery.

The Tom Thomson Art Gallery abandoned plans to incorporate in late 2017 and had its board disbanded, after directors found a substantial $500,000 deficit would be posted.

Allan says Trillium Coast was engaged by the Director and Chief Curator of the Art Gallery to develop a website that would support Augmented Reality associated with the Betwixt and Between exhibition.

The Foundation was awarded a grant to cover costs of a website for Betwixt and Between, but Allan says the augmented reality features and the exhibition aspect of the website were abandoned early in the development stage.

However, the Art Gallery chair gave new directions to Trillium Coast to develop a more functional page with payment capabilities -- necessary once the Tom Thomson Art Gallery was independently incorporated.

Allan says there was no request for proposal, no tender issued or no purchase order issued for the new website development work.

She says invoices were issued in the name of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, but all payments were made by the Foundation.

According to a staff report, the Foundation paid $58,031 for website development services but stopped making payments in July 2017.

Allan says city staff were not aware of the new website or any of the payments made by the Foundation until the project was complete and the site launched.

Since the Tom Thomson Art Gallery came back under city oversight, the website has been de-activated in favour of using the city's existing portal for financial purposes. Allan says the monthly hosting cost for the new Gallery website was $1,400.

Meantime, city staff continues to work on plans to handle the $500,000 Art Gallery deficit.

Allan says a report on the progress will come to council in March or April.


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