City says no to ARPA funding for the Susanville Performing Arts Center — for now

Despite its sweeping popularity with Susanville residents and a variety of local performing arts groups, the dream of transforming Sierra Theatre into a performing arts center and an economic development juggernaut that would revitalize and save Uptown may have failed before it began due to the group’s own unforced errors.

As the proposal, originally brought forward by the Susanville Symphony Society, gained broader community support, it morphed into a 35-page business plan, submitted by the Susanville Performing Arts Center — a coalition of local performing arts groups that does not exist as an official legal entity.

After hearing about an hour and 40 minutes of public comment, most in favor of the Susanville Performing Arts Center, the council took a break.

When the council came back, Mayor Mendy Schuster, asked for an opinion from City Attorney Margaret Long.

“Since February, the Susanville Symphony has come to us asking for ARPA funds to buy Sierra Theatre,” Schuster said. “The council asked them to bring a business plan forward, but we received a business plan to consider tonight from a group called SPAC, who is requesting ARPA funds to buy Sierra Theatre. SPAC actually missed the deadline for submission and they are not an incorporated organization. Can we actually give them the money, the ARPA funds?”

Long said, “No.”

Carla Dollar, representing the group said, “We are are really a collective of many organization, including the Susanville Symphony … Part of the question that we are bringing to city council is do they want to partner with symphony and through that eventually down the road we would have the SPAC Foundation or would they want us to immediately tomorrow go and become that 501c3. It sort of depends what city council is wanting to work with.”

But Long said the groups eligible to receive the unexpended ARPA funds are “nonprofits, tribal and community, and other types of entities of that nature that are not for profit … We also had catchall, which was private entities, and the private entity concept was that you can provide this money if it fit one of the categories to a private entity, but it would have to be able to contract … So they’re going to have to contract with the city. A nonlegal entity cannot contract with the city and cannot receive those funds. You would have to have an actually formed entity that would be the registered entity for profit or nonprofit or a tribal component that would be eligible for these funds. A conglomerate, a number of different (groups), would not be able to receive the funding in that capacity.”

“OK, thank you,” said Schuster.

“I know Susanville Symphony is the one that has spearheaded this,” Dollar said. “They’re definitely one of those nonprofits organizations and could definitely function as that entity until we formed the foundation under their umbrella.”

Dollar asked Schuster if McCourt could address this issue, and Schuster agreed.

“The symphony spearheaded this project and as they continued to grow, all the community members from so many walks of life decided they wanted to get on board,” McCourt said. “And really they thought — it’s the Susanville Performing Arts Center spearheaded by the symphony … Nothing’s changed and there’s been no deadlines missed. This is a chance to change Susanville for the better. We wouldn’t want to lose that based on something like that.”

The council kicked around many ideas regarding the expenditure of the ARPA funds for about 90 minutes and finally approved the following expenditures — $930,000 for a fire engine, $100,000 for the Elk’s Lodge improvements. $450,000 for the performing arts center (if the issues can be resolved), $244,00 for storage for the Lassen Historical Society storage, $143,000 for bathrooms at Pat Murphy Fieldand $150,000 for conde enforcement abatement. If the SPAC proposal falls through that $450,000 would be used to repay the city’s debt.

The city staff agreed to meet with the SPAC representatives to try and resolve these issues. The council also directed staff to bring the items back at a future meeting for approval.


Information from the SPAC business plan
The SPAC board, hereinafter referred to as the board, shall be established to oversee the rehabilitation and operation of the Susanville Performing Arts Center, hereinafter referred to as SPAC. The board shall be comprised of nine community stakeholders, ensuring a diverse and equitable representation from all sectors of the community. The board shall ensure that SPAC serves a broad range of uses, including all forms of art, educational activities and community enrichment programs. The board will operate independently, with one member appointed by the City Council to facilitate communication and alignment with city interests. The three local governing bodies will appoint members to the board which include the Susanville Indian Rancheria, city of Susanville and Lassen County.

The board shall consider including representatives from the following entities to enhance governance and community engagement — the city of Susanville, the Susanville Indian Rancheria, Lassen County, the Symphony Society, Best of Broadway, the Lassen County Arts Council and a local business representative.

SPAC Board

  •  Chairperson: Shall be elected from among the board members. The chairperson shall be responsible for scheduling and chairing board meetings, reporting activities to the community, and leading the SPAC executive committee.
  •  Co-chairperson: Shall be elected from among the board members; shall replace the chairperson when absent; shall be a member of the SPAC executive committee.
  •  Secretary: Shall be elected from among the board members; shall generate meeting agendas and take written minutes at all board meetings; shall manage all correspondence involving the board.
  •  Treasurer: Shall be elected from among the board members; shall maintain, account for, and disburse funds as directed by the Board.
  •  City Council Appointee: Shall be appointed by the City Council; shall represent the city’s interest in the operation of SPAC; shall attend all board meetings.
  •  Members No. 1 – 5: Shall be community stakeholders, selected through a fair and transparent nomination process that represents all corners of the town; shall attend all board meetings.
  •  Stakeholder Members: (Members No. 1 through 5) shall be committed to the mission and vision of SPAC and actively participate in its programs and initiatives.
  •  Executive Committee: Shall be comprised of the chairperson, co-chairperson, secretary and treasurer. The SPAC Executive Committee shall convene to address urgent operational issues when it is not feasible to assemble the full board. Actions taken by the executive committee shall be limited to emergency circumstances and will be reported to the full board at the subsequent regular meeting.