The Leonardo Museum hasn't paid utility bills since October 2015

KUTV Leonardo museum sign 111317.JPG
The Leonardo Museum hasn't paid utility bills since October 2015 (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Inside The Leonardo Museum, the temperature is nice, the lights are on and the water fountains all work. This despite the fact that the non-profit owes Salt Lake City tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid heating, electric and water bills.

Looking through Mayor Jackie Biskupski's budget, Get Gephardt noticed something unique. There is a line item for $120,000 titled "Leonardo collections."

Through public records requests, Get Gephardt confirmed that the group hasn't paid a single utility bill to the city since October of 2015.

Biskupski’s senior adviser for arts and culture, Lia Summers, said The Leonardo actually owes the city close to $200,000.

“It's absolutely an amount of money that the city takes seriously,” she said.

That said, Summers says that Salt Lake City wants The Leonardo to survive - and thrive. So they have been bailing The Leonardo out, charging a mere $1 per month in rent to use the downtown city building that housed a former city library, and looking the other way on the delinquent bills.

Katie Smith with The Leonardo says they have struggled to make ends meet since opening and, years ago, they turned to the city for help.

“We had a meeting with the former administration to discuss a potential holiday on utility payments," she said. "To our understanding, it was [granted]."

But it wasn't.

The city agreed to hold off on collecting utility payments but never agreed to write them off altogether. Now, the city says it's time to pay up.

The Leonardo says it will.

Pressed on The Leonardo’s current finances, Smith says the non-profit is in a much stronger position, now, and that the utility debt isn’t representative of a failing business model.

"We are not failing but we were a startup company,” she said. “We were more a startup company than we were a normal non-profit."

A public records request turned up a new contract between Salt Lake City and The Leonardo, with The Leonardo agreeing to pay $1000 per month until the debt is paid off, which would take about 17 years. But both Smith and Summers caution that they are already hammering out details on a news operations agreement between the two parties – one that will encompass a lot more than just the utility costs – and one that each hopes will keep The Leonardo in the black.