Fenton Council Close to Agreement with Community Center Board
The city owns the Fenton Community and Cultural Center, but the Board of Governors has overseen the building since it began.
The city of Fenton owns the Community and Cultural Center, but the center has had its own Board of Governors since it began. And through the years, the city and board have had disagreements over who will do what, when, where and how.
Now city council is on the verge of inking an agreement with the Board of Governors for the Fenton Community and Cultural Center, spelling out how they will collaborate. An architectural firm, Lindhout and Associates, of Brighton, has been working on plans for possible improvements to the center.
Work on the center could total around $2 million. The proposed improvements would make the community center more handicap-accessible and would include a new elevator and an addition to the south for art and cultural activities.
Councilwoman Pat Lockwood said Mayor Sue Osborn, who is on the Board of Governors as well, worked very hard on the proposed agreement.
"We really need to move the project forward," Lockwood said. "This is a big step."
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the city will have up to 12 free uses of the community center per year. City Manager Lynn Markland, or his representative, will schedule all events.
For financial reporting, the community center board will provide monthly financial reports to the city, along with its annual financial report and a copy of the 990 form it provides annually to the IRS.
Because of cost issues, the Board of Governors will be required to have a finacial audit of the community center done every five years. It costs around $1,500 for the audit, Markland said. In addition, he believes the first audit should take place the first year of the agreement, to provide a baseline for future years.
In addition, each year in January, the community center board will put aside $5,000, or 25 percent of the center's annual net income (whichever is more), Markland said. The city will match this amount, not to exceed $10,000. The money will be set aside as a restricted city fund, for any major future expenses.
Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl King said the amount should be $10,000 annually.
Lockwood believes Fenton needs to move its community center project forward, and grants are waiting on elevators for it. It would be remiss to move backward, she said. So, she recommends council approve the proposed criteria for the agreement, unless it's a very major issue.
The Board of Governors agreed to conduct four of its regular meetings, each year, as open to the public, Markland said. The meeting dates would be posted publicly and on the community center website. The community center board usually meets on the first Tuesday of each month.
In addition, the city would be the only one able to enforce the open meetings, per the proposed agreement, said city attorney Stephen Schultz. Members of the public or press could not sue to enforce this.
Councilman Ben Smith said he will not support the agreement if the board agrees to only four open meetings annually. He would support it if there were six, but he'd prefer eight open meetings, Smith said. There's way too much taxpayer money involved in the proposed improvements to the center, he said.
King said she believes the board of governors should add two more public meetings to the four they've agreed upon, in the interest of a unanimous council vote on the agreement.
The community center is a nonprofit and falls under rules and regulations for a nonprofit organization, Lockwood said. As such, it isn't required to hold open meetings.
Another issue is requests for information on the community center from council or the city manager. Council discussed whether it should take a majority of them to request information, or whether any individual council member should be able to ask the Board of Governors for it. And they talked about whether the city manager should be able to request information. Markland said he would prefer not to have the ability because, "I don't want to be stuck between council members."
And vacancies on the Board of Governors, according to the proposed agreement, would be posted so all interested parties could submit applications. Vacancies on the board would be filled at an open board meeting.
Lastly, any alterations and additions to the community center would be first approved by the council and the Board of Governors. Lockwood said she doesn't believe the community center board has ever tried to hide anything. And no one is accusing the Board of Governors of doing anything underhanded, City Manager Lynn Markland added.
The proposed agreement is scheduled to be considered at Monday's meeting, 7:30 p.m. at Fenton City Hall.
Community center history
The Rackham estate trustees gave $219,425 for the land, building and expenses, in a series of donations from 1938 to 1940. Late Finnish-American architects Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen and his son, Eero Saarinen, designed the Fenton Community Center. Eero Saarinen is known for designing the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo.