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Narrow vote awards Sundance other funds after missing grant deadline

Outside the Egyptian Theatre on Main Street.
Parker Malatesta
The grant Sundance missed doesn't fund the film festival itself; instead, it helps the nonprofit put on free shows for locals and reach out to students.

The Summit County Council approved the Sundance Institute’s $130,000 request after the nonprofit missed a separate deadline this spring.

The council was split over whether to give Sundance the money, with some concerned about setting a forgiving precedent for other area nonprofits.

“In this situation, I think there were wholesale changes within Sundance. The head of the organization, Joana Vicente, was replaced. Somebody stepped up from the board to take her place. There were just a lot of changes going on. We changed the deadline,” Councilmember Roger Armstrong said.

So he supported funding Sundance’s local programs another way, after the county received the nonprofit’s cultural RAP—recreation, arts and parks—tax grant application three days late. Councilmember Canice Harte had a different perspective.

“I think to grant this flies in the face of everything we have done in the past,” Harte said. “As an example, Park City Institute found themselves in the exact same situation [in 2020]: change of leadership; county changed the date for the application; they submitted their grant late; they never got this accommodation.”

But after a 3-2 vote May 1, the Sundance Institute will receive $130,000 this year to put on free local film screenings and educational programming.

Armstrong, Council Chair Malena Stevens and Vice Chair Tonja Hanson voted for the funding. Harte and Councilmember Chris Robinson voted against.

The council did not make an exception for the RAP grant deadline; it drew the funds from restaurant sales tax leftovers.

About 10% of the restaurant tax is reserved for “county-sponsored projects” which councilmembers allocate ad hoc.

Various comparisons and precedents were discussed at the May 1 meeting. KPCW has not been able to verify if any other organization that similarly missed the cultural RAP tax grant deadline received money from the county-sponsored projects fund instead.

Armstrong compared the council’s decision to the time it forgave two dozen nonprofits that failed to apply for a property tax exemption after not receiving a notice to apply.

But Harte says the council’s decision not to fund Park City Institute financially crippled the performing arts nonprofit. Private donations saved it.

Sundance’s Director of Utah Community Outreach and Government Affairs Luna Banuri told the council the grant usually funds Sundance festival screenings for locals and outreach for Park City School District students.

“We are also looking to carry on our summer programming, which is called ‘The Local Lens,’” she said. 

She did not mention Sundance’s recent announcement that it is considering leaving Park City after 2026. Cities across the U.S. are courting the festival; Park City has bid for the festival to return.

Harte later told KPCW a potential move didn’t factor into his vote, and the council didn’t discuss the situation with Sundance during the meeting.

Summit County has yet to announce the recommended cultural and recreation grants drawn from the RAP tax.

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