Mateel Community Center Board Gets a New Member and Wrestles With Its Finances
The Mateel’s Board of Directors met Tuesday the 15th of May, for nearly three hours. They seated a new board member, discussed finances, and spoke about fundraising efforts.
News Board Member Seated
A new Board Member, Andrea “Annie” Pergens, was seated. Board Member Marcus Schaible has stepped down, the Board explained.
Reggae News Still Not Solid
High Times Production remains uncommitted to Reggae on the River 2018. At the Board meeting last week, Event and Talent Coordinator Eryn Snodgrass reported all the snags had been resolved and that High Times Production would be signing the contract forthwith. However, Monday May 21st, Snodgrass texted to say “…the [ROTR] contract is hung up on their end because they want more budgetary information from our side so they can green light the project.” But NOW, this very morning, Eryn Snodgrass texted again to say “We signed last night.” Details will be published here on RHBB later this afternoon.
Financial Consultant’s Recommendations
Tuesday night’s agenda covered the financial recommendations from Patrick Schwartz, the financial consultant; the potential for a Headwaters Fund loan, the use of funds from the Mateel Meal Juice Booth that may be raised at Summer Arts next month. And during the Public Comment period, the Board heard questions from longtime Mateel member and Briceland Fire Chief Jim Fulton.
The financial recommendations from Patrick Swartz, of North Point Financial Resourcing and Solutions LLC of Arcata were released at last week’s Mateel Board meeting. Swartz notes that the Mateel Community Center is “beloved by the community but appears to have lost its trust.” Swartz recommends rebuilding that trust and involving the community in the fundraising strategy and recovery effort.
In the accounting arena, Swartz recommends that the Mateel “build a reporting system that accurately captures the economic activity of the organization on a macro and micro basis ie as a whole and by event.” Treasurer Eryn Snodgrass says the Mateel is beginning to implement that recommendation through improvements in its Quickbooks bookkeeping categories.
Swartz recommended the Mateel consider bankruptcy protection although he is concerned the Mateel may be ineligible for reorganization. The Board, however, has not yet met with a bankruptcy attorney to formally explore the possibilities. Board Member Anna Rogers explained bankruptcy isn’t something the Board wants to explore, “We aren’t comfortable with that. Obviously, at some point that might become necessary, but we’d rather pay back the local businesses we owe money.”
Swartz also recommended the Mateel strive to better define its role outside of event production.
Cherney Not Optimistic
While remaining open to a turn-around, during his Fundraising Report, Darryl Cherney said the Adopt a Debt campaign is unlikely to be successful. Cherney said,
The Adopt a Debt program, as I see it, is not working. And the Pillars of the Mateel is not working.
I would say to you that we have a convergence of problems, a kind of perfect storm. I don’t need to tell you, but we are having a crashing economy. We have an economy that is in a free-fall. When I… talk to local shopkeepers, some are doing less worse than others, but I think it is very fair to say that we are experiencing, that we are on the verge of a local depression.
So, one, we have a failing economy; and two, people are not happy that the Mateel ended up in this kind of debt. So, they don’t have money, and they’re bummed that you guys don’t have money. And there’s also other good causes out there that people want to contribute to.
I also have a faith, and an experience… that sometimes things happen, like [a supporter] just offered a thousand dollars worth of merchandise. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone showed up….and said ‘I saw this and I want to contribute.’
In the meantime, Cherney said he has been in communication with the Headwaters Fund which meets on June 12th. Cherney is recommending the Board pursue a combination of a grant and a loan from the Headwaters Fund. “The Headwaters Fund does give up to a million and a half [dollar] loans…to non-profit organizations. They also give grants, generally speaking, five thousand dollar grants, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a fifty thousand dollar grant.”
Cherney has requested the Mateel be put on the agenda of the Headwaters Fund Board Meeting happening June 12th. Cherney informed the Mateel Board that if it wants to move forward, the Board will need to present a clear vision of how the Mateel stimulates the local economy and therefore how a large loan paying off their debts benefits the community at large.
Cherney says the Headwaters Fund is more likely to be interested if the Mateel has a new project to develop in addition to paying off debts.
And Cherney stressed the need for a business plan to show how the Mateel plans to use a loan and to repay it, as the Mateel moves into the future.
Finance Woes Deepen
In the meantime, The Mateel’s debt situation is getting even more serious because it’s employee withholding taxes haven’t been paid. The Mateel recently received a $5,000 penalty on these unpaid withholdings. Board President Garth Epling said, “That’s the taxes we owe on….all those crews at Reggae. Now the fees and interest are starting to hit, and I believe we just got a $5,000 bill on that….It started at 70 [thousand dollars] now it’s 80 [thousand dollars] and its only going to go up from there.”
Meanwhile, the Board has accepted yet another loan from a community member for about $35,000 to put on Summer Arts and Music Festival.
Cherney’s report examined the option of selling the hall. He would like to see the County buy it as it is looking for a building for their county offices and vets hall replacement. Cherney acknowledges the hall would not serve that need very effectively due to its poor parking, and large open space floor plan, however.
Regarding the Summer Arts and Music Festival, coming up on the first weekend in June, Briceland Fire Chief Jim Fulton had questions about the Mateel’s plans for fire and medical at the show. Briceland Fire has traditionally provided those services but had not yet been asked this year.
The Board had been under the impression that the Briceland VFD wasn’t interested in helping this year, but didn’t seem to have actually asked. In a phone conversation after the meeting, Fulton said the timing for Reggae on the River has been problematic because a lot of the department is out on strike teams around the state in August, but that June’s Summer Arts is less problematic.
On Friday the 18th, Fulton said Briceland VFD was in the process of writing an MOU with the Mateel to provide those services again this year. Snodgrass confirmed this.
Mateel Meal Issues
And the Mateel Meal coordinator Babette Bach addressed the Mateel Board with Mateel Meal volunteer Babette Kurtz.
Babette Bach had thought the Mateel Meal would use the proceeds from the Mateel Meal Juice Booth to rent the kitchen for preparing a meal to be served off-site as food trucks are doing.
However, the Board said they had decided to offer her a trade of 24 hours of kitchen time for the 24 hours the juice booth will be open during the Summer Arts Festival. The Board increased that credit to 48 hours during this discussion.
Bach did some math and said that given historical earnings of the juice booth, that 48 hours of kitchen time would mean her team would be paying around $60 an hour while the commercial food trucks will be paying around $20 an hour.
Board Members indicated that the time credit in the kitchen was a “nod of respect” to the longtime program. Board member Anna Rogers said the Board needs to prioritize securing every dollar it possibly can to pay off its monumental debts.
When Bach asked if the Meal is still under the umbrella of the Mateel as she seeks funding for it, Board Member Meghan Gomes said she thought the Meal is better off looking for another organization to umbrella its fundraising.
In a phone interview Friday after the meeting, former Board Member and former Juice Booth coordinator, Jackie Pantaleo said she was “disgusted.” Pantaleo expressed frustration because she said that the Mateel Meal program purchased all its equipment itself and created the booth signage and décor. She said, “So who owns the juice booth? You tell me.”