Community Hall Update

Dear Editor,

I am writing to you to give you an important update on the Community Hall. Just over two years ago, our board took over the running of the Anza Community Hall. As president, I had 4 primary goals that I wanted to achieve. First and foremost, we needed to fix the numerous failures in corporate filing compliance, some of which dated back 10 years. Secondly, I wanted to improve the appearance and functionality of the Hall. The outside of the hall was painted with several different colors of peeling paint. The floor was rotting and had busted through in several areas and much of the equipment was in need of replacement. My third priority was to set usage fees that were uniformly applied. There were wide disparities between what one group paid versus what another similar group paid for their use of the Hall. My final goal was to put the Hall on a sound financial footing.

Goal #1 was a real challenge. Previous boards had managed to get the corporation suspended by both the Secretary of State and Attorney General. They had managed to get the tax-exempt status revoked by both the state and federal government. They had misfiled tax forms for 10 years which resulted in the IRS levying more than $25,000 in penalties and interest. They were facing an immediate fine from the Riverside County Health Department of $15,000. The filing errors were so numerous that previous board members had even registered the Community Hall as a Condominium Development. Except for the year 2008 (which the IRS is still working to resolve) we fixed all the incorrect filings and the corporation is in good standing with all the agencies regulating it. The IRS has written us and said they expect the 2008 issue to be resolved in the next 90 days.

Goal #2 was a huge challenge. The typical annual budget for the Anza Community Hall is under $50,000 and the expenses generally equal the income. I had to find sources of monies to pay for these improvements. The corporate records indicated that the Hall had previously received a C.I.D. Grant from the County to pay for new A/C, paint the building and re-stripe the parking lot. The A/C was in but the building hadn’t been painted and no work had been done in the parking lot. What the previous board had done was pay for the A/C units and then put the balance of the money in the savings account. They never completed the work and had never competed the report back to the County showing how the money was spent. So when I approached the County inquiring about C.I.D. Funds I was told that we were ineligible for additional grant money due to those failures. We arranged to get the building painted and gave a detailed report to the County showing that all the funds had been spent. This opened up the door to my first successful grant proposal which netted the Hall a much needed $5,000 to pay for the urgent replacement of the water heating system. The previous system was undersized and was failing. We had received a correction notice from the Health Department to shut down the kitchen until this critical repair was made.

The Health Department had written numerous other corrections. I was successful in getting them to waive the $15,000 fine they had imposed on the Hall for those violations. The order to replace the rotted floor was a huge expense. The floor can’t be replaced without first removing the cabinets that were sitting on it. Those cabinets were in poor shape so they couldn’t be removed and reinstalled. They needed to be replaced. That meant replacing the counter as well. Then we had the correction to add a triple sink for dish washing, a food-prep sink and a hand-wash sink in the kitchen as well as the order to remove the mop sink from the food prep area. These corrections would cost more than our total annual budget. The $5,000 C.I.D Grant was very helpful but it felt like a drop in the bucket. I then wrote a Grant Proposal to Anza Electric Cooperative, who generously gave money to the Hall and encouraged one of their associates to match those funds. That brought in another $5,000 which allowed us to replace the floor under the sinks, add the required sinks and install cabinets on one wall of the kitchen but we were still a long way from our goal.

I then located another grant source. It is federally funded but County administered fund. We budgeted that the balance of the repairs would cost in excess of $200,000 so I wrote that grant proposal. We were elated to receive an award of just over $162,000. But when the representatives of the federal government showed up with the County we soon learned that this Grant would be very different from any Grant we had received before. They immediately started demanding changes to the handicap parking and building access ramps. We hadn’t budgeted any work outside the building. They also demanded that we adhere to the very strict Federal procurement guidelines which makes everything we were going to purchase much more expensive. The next string was that we had to (1) get pre-approval of all expenses, (2) spend our own money, (3) only then get reimbursed for those expenses and the final string was that we needed to set aside $6,000-10,000 of the grant funds to pay for a Federal audit of our books. All these strings meant that our original budget of just over $200,000 was now only about 50 percent of what the work would cost following the Federal procurement procedures. We had no money to “spend first.” We had $162,000 in Grant funds available for our use and no way of accessing the money. We took out a small line of credit to provide these advanced funds. The funds from the line of credit were deposited into a separate bank account. As we were reimbursed, those funds were also put into this same bank account and checks from that account were written to pay off the line of credit. We had raised an amazing $172,000 in Grant plus another $3,000 from fundraising activities but $175,000 was going to fall far short of the required work the federal government was requiring.

I then wrote a fourth Grant proposal seeking another $219,000 to finish the work. We just received an official notice that we will receive a second CBDG award of $70,000 and be allowed to conduct a single audit for both CBDG awards saving us between $6,000 and $10,000. This puts our total fundraising at approximately $245,000 but we are still far short of the goal.

I have recently written a fifth Grant Proposal and I have received positive feedback from the Grantor but no award at this time. That source of grant funds will produce a smaller amount than is available through a source like the CBDG funds but we hope that this grant will put us over the $250,000 mark.

If we can use volunteer labor from some of the numerous contractors in this town we should be able to build the ADA bathroom and bring the building access ramps up to code next year.

Goal #3 was achieved when we instituted a uniform pricing policy. Nonprofits and members still received discounted prices relative to the general public but no group pays at a higher rate than another. We also put a value on the Hall’s limited storage and allowed the groups using that storage to make in-kind donations of cash, goods and services to provide offsets for their use of that storage.

Goal #4 was to put the Hall on a solid financial footing. Currently income is covering expenses but we need far more community participation in events at the Hall if we are going to be truly on solid footing. Despite having a population approaching 12,000 people in these communities, it is hard to get more than 50 people at an event.

Assuming we will meet these goals, I will have accomplished the four goals I set for myself when I ran for office. Therefore, when my term ends in September 2018, I will not be running for re-election.

My vice president has recently had to step down due to other commitments so the board will be holding elections Sept. 28, 2017, to fill his seat on the board.

Respectfully,

Noel Donahue

Anza Community Hall President

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