Jazz Depot gets 30-day reprieve over unpaid bills. One deadline came and went. But the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame has gotten more time to straighten out unpaid electric bills that have landed the nonprofit in hot water with Tulsa County officials.
The Hall of Fame had earlier pledged to county commissioners to pay up roughly $30,000 in electric bills, but at a Sept. 4 meeting of the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, the group's chief executive officer explained that they didn't have the cash.
"I was hopeful that a few pledges would come in that haven't come in," said Jason McIntosh, the Hall of Fame's CEO. The group had only about $5,000 to put toward the electric bill, he said.
County leaders voted to send a certified letter giving the group 30 days to comply with terms of a lease agreement.
But the county doesn't have an ordinary landlord-tenant relationship with the organization. The Hall of Fame's current home, the Tulsa Union Depot building, 111 E. 1st St., was purchased and renovated by the county as a Vision 2025 project described to voters as a new home for the Hall of Fame. Vision 2025 allocated $4 million for the project.
As part of the deal, the Hall of Fame stays essentially rent-free but must pay expenses that include electricity. The county is also demanding payment of a neighborhood assessment fee related to ONEOK Field and insurance expenses. All together, the county states the Hall of Fame now owes about $38,000 in unpaid electric bills, plus roughly $16,000 in unpaid assessments and a few thousand more for insurance expanses.
McIntosh told commissioners the organization relies on a November gala as a primary fundraiser, but that the money begins to come in beginning in September.
County Commissioner John Smaligo made no attempt to hide his displeasure with the organization.
"Did you not agree to get all this stuff taken care of two weeks ago?" Smaligo pointedly asked McIntosh.
McIntosh later said he expected the electric bill to be paid "by the end of the month." McIntosh called doing so "our number one priority."
Smaligo also wanted a certificate of occupancy for the roughly 60 students attending school in the Union Depot building through an agreement between the Jazz Hall of Fame and the Deborah Brown Community School. McIntosh could not provide the certificate at the Sept. 4 meeting.
In an interview a few days later, McIntosh said the organization's JazzFest, Sept. 14-16, will serve as a membership drive. He blamed the stop-start flow of revenues as well as the region's "economic climate" as contributors to the group's current woes.
"We anticipate taking care of all that's required," McIntosh said.
Building sold by Tulsa Public Schools.
Just hours before the intense fire that destroyed one Tulsa Public Schools property, the TPS school board on Sept. 4 approved the sale of the former Mayo Demonstration School building for $780,000 to the Tulsa Children's Coalition, a group that involves the Community Action Project of Tulsa County.
The sale marks the second sale of a TPS building declared a surplus property as part of the Project Schoolhouse initiative which closed several schools.
The former Mayo site, 2525 S. 101st E. Ave., will become an early childhood education center.
Having another surplus site proved important after a Sept. 5 fire destroyed the former home of Barnard Elementary School. The building at 2324 E. 17th St. had just begun to house the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences this school year. The charter school now is at the former Sequoyah Elementary School.
Including the Sequoyah Elementary site, the district has seven surplus properties that officials have said they would like to sell.
Guthrie Green opens. Several hundred people gathered for the grand unveiling of Guthrie Green, a new public space downtown in the Brady Arts District built with funding from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
The park, 111 E. Brady St., had several music acts break in the main stage during a three-day festival that concluded Sept. 9. Along with having a well-manicured sloped lawn, the park impressed with several design flourishes like professional lighting for the stage, water jets enjoyed by the children in attendance and an overall design quality that lived up to the "urban garden" promised by park developers. An on-site café, Lucky's on the Green, seemed to be doing brisk business as well.
More events are planned for the site, with announcements posted at guthriegreen.com.
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