Bailing out the Fresno Met Museum

July 9, 2009 8:38:12 PM PDT
The City of Fresno is about to do something it hoped would never happen. It's getting into the museum business by extending a lifeline to the troubled Met Museum.The agreement between the City of Fresno and the Fresno Met involves a 10 year lease. City council will vote on the terms of the agreement next Tuesday just one day before the city is set to take over the Met's deed.

A favorite from children's TV is still drawing big crowds at the Met.

Kelly Davis said, "We came to see Bob the Builder."

He arrived less than a month ago, since then attendance is up. City councilmember's hope this trend continues. They say the Valley cannot afford to lose the Met.

Councilman Larry Westerlund said, "This is a cultural icon in the City of Fresno."

An agreement has been reached between the Met and the City of Fresno. Taxpayers will front 15.2 million dollars on a defaulted bank loan.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin said, "It's a difficult situation, I don't think anybody wanted to be here I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Met wishes it didn't have to look to the City of Fresno for a little while."

Mayor Swearingin says the city will not simply write a check from the general fund, under the agreement; the Met will turn over all property to the city, in turn the city can sell or develop land around the museum. The city also agrees to lease the building to the Met with deferred rent for three years. That money would eventually be paid back.

"All of our costs are covered insurance legal, carrying cost the actual principal on the note?agreed to pay back," said Swearengin.

Dana Thrope said, "We are focused on reducing our expenses we have cut our budget by 35 percent we will continue to tow the line on that."

The museum must do its part to increase memberships and fundraising.

"They have to raise a great deal of money to continue to operate to be able to make payments to the city," said Westerlund.

The museum plans to bring in more exhibits like Bob the Builder hoping to connect with Valley residents.

Council members say they are working to iron out small details in the agreement. Museum officials plan to start a public fundraising campaign in August.

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