Fresno Met Museum Financial Troubles

March 6, 2009 6:58:30 PM PST
Financial troubles are growing for the Fresno Metropolitan Museum. Now, the museum faces a major deadline to ward off more trouble.More companies are coming forward saying the Fresno Met owes them money. It reopened four months ago and already financial problems are growing. Companies are claiming they are owed more than $2-million for work they did on the Met. The museum's executive director said they are working to solve their financial problems. At the same time, the Fresno City Council President wants answers.

Music and dance greeted people attending the Met's reopening in November. People flooded the museum to get a glimpse of a $28-million project to revamp the historic building, but the museum's financial problems are growing. Action News found 13 liens filed against the Met. Harris Construction filed the first lien in December claiming they're owed $2.1 million. The most recent was filed February 25 for more than $80,000.

Dana Thorpe is the museum's executive director. She is out of state and spoke to us over the phone. Thorpe said, "Fresno Metropolitan Museum has every intention of being able to retire the debt on the building through a long term financing package. That is currently development." But Thorpe declined to reveal specifics on how they will pay off their debt.

ABC 30 Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi said the Met is approaching a major deadline, "When a mechanics lien is filed, it generally shows the property owner is having financial difficulty. " The companies could file a lawsuit if the museum does not pay them soon. Capozzi said, "If he doesn't resolve it, then the contractor files what's called a foreclosure on a lien to force the property owner to pay the lien or to force the property owner to sell their property."

Tax payer money is also on the line. Fresno City Council Members loaned the met $15-million. Council President Cynthia Sterling said she recently requested city staff to look into the Met's financial situation. Sterling said, "That's what I need to know, where are they? What type of due diligence are they making in order to make sure they are securing these funds."

Sterling considers the Met the crown jewel of Downtown Fresno, and she doesn't want it to fail. Tax payers may soon be getting specifics answers. A report may be made to the city council in two weeks detailing how the Met will pay off their debts. The executive director told me they simply can't rely on museum visitors and donors to solve their financial problems.

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