LEWISTON — Twin Cities councilors on Thursday pushed L/A Arts to make sure councilors are given seat on the art agency's board of directors.
"Every other organization that we fund, we have representation on so we can have an inside look at everything," Lewiston City Councilor Don D'Auteuil told Odelle Bowman, L/A Arts executive director.
D'Auteuil, Lewiston Councilor Richard Desjardins and Auburn City Councilors Tizz Crowley and Mary Lafontaine all agreed that oversight is necessary as they reviewed the group's proposed budget request.
L/Arts was one of three shared Lewiston-Auburn agencies to make a budget request to the subcommittee of the two city councils. Councilors also heard from the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport and Great Falls TV.
Bowman presented a request for $23,960 to Lewiston and $20,160 to Auburn for the 2012-13 fiscal year. It's the same amount that the agency has been given annually by the cities for the last three years.
She also made a strong pitch for the agency, saying it plays a key part in helping to develop a vibrant community.
"From parades to art fairs to museums to performances to open studio nights — I don't think we can have too much of that in this community," Bowman said. "That is what will draw in the 20- and 30-somethings to come and live here. They'll see that when they leave work, there is a community here that they can involve themselves in."
Bowman said she's been on the job 11 months, and her first year has been devoted to getting programs scheduled. The agency lost its Lisbon Street art gallery, Gallery 5, but is looking to open a new public gallery.
Bowman said the agency is looking to fill empty spaces on its board of directors.
Councilors strongly urged the agency to include city representatives.
"If the cities continue to fund, will there be a board appointment for both the city of Lewiston and Auburn so that we can participate in an organization we are paying for?" Auburn Councilor Lafontaine asked.
Bowman said the agency's board is discussing the idea, but has never had a councilor sit on it before.
"We've had people from the library, but not from the councils," Bowman said.
Most often, board members are named to fill a need — accountants when number crunchers are needed or fine arts experts when their expertise is needed.
Councilors also scrutinized the rest of the agency's $424,540 budget. Auburn Councilor Crowley questioned the agency's revenue forecasts — specifically expectations to increase foundation endowments from $78,500 in the current budget to $106,000 next year and ticket sales from $9,480 to $51,850.
"To me, I'd call that ambitious," Crowley said.
Bowman said the group now has two full-time grant writers and a full schedule of events. They had neither at this time last year.
The subcommittee will continue their shared agency review March 14 in Auburn Hall. They are scheduled to review budgets for the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee — operators of the Citylink bus system — the L-A 911 Communications Center and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council.
That meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
"And if we have time, we can work for a little while afterwards and discuss what we are going to propose to the full councils, after that meeting," Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said.