RJRD works on new agreements

by Sue Serdinak

Jan. 22, 29 board meetings and governance meetings

As the Richfield Heritage Preserve enters its 10th year, growing pains are being addressed by the board in long and complicated meetings.

The park’s purchase was facilitated by the Friends of Richfield Heritage Preserve, who promoted passage of a bond issue and operating levy for the park, and helped acquire Clean Ohio and other grants.

In the following years, the Friends raised thousands of dollars to restore the water mill, historical houses and other structures in the park. In 2023, they agreed to restore Amity House to a condition where it could be rented for overnight stays. Throughout the 10 years, they also undertook responsibility for removing invasive species.

The memorandum of understanding under which the Friends and the RJRD board operate expires at the end of 2024. Both sides agree that a new MOU is needed. The Friends hope to restore the Jim Kirby House, the mill house and adjacent water wheel that was rebuilt in 2023.

Mike Lyons, Holly Price and Dave Wehner serve on the governance committee of the RJRD and have been given the task of writing a new MOU to cover new and ongoing issues that could arise with the Friends.

On Jan. 19, Anita Gantner, RJRD board chairperson, attended a governance meeting and proposed that the current MOU should expire in 180 days rather than at the end of 2024, the termination date of the document. The committee voted that the MOU would expire in 180 days if a new MOU was not agreed to.

Including Gantner’s presence at the committee meeting, four of the seven-member  RJRD board, a majority, were in attendance. No announcement was made that this was a meeting of the full board, a violation of the Ohio sunshine law. The governance committee scheduled another meeting for two days later, and Gantner did not attend.

Wehner was out of town for the second meeting. Lyons and Price voted to reverse the early MOU termination date and began work on the wording for a new MOU with the Friends. That work is ongoing with input from the Friends.

Event coordinator contract

The governance committee also worked on a revised method of paying the park’s event coordinator. Since the Lodge was made available for weddings and other events, Shari Green promoted, scheduled and managed use of the Lodge. She was paid $1,000 per month plus commission on all booked events, which were mostly on Friday and Saturday nights. Green earned $43,995 in 2023.

According to the contract under which Green was working, she was paid full commission on the deposit amount and the total rental fee at the time of the booking, including the full rental fee for 2024 dates. Her pay was also tiered, providing a higher percentage at certain thresholds.

The current board agreed that the contract signed on Dec. 20, 2021, to pay the total commission when events are booked was a poor plan and should be corrected. They acknowledged the correction should be introduced gradually to be fair to Green.

The committee acknowledged that as a new venue, work to promote the Lodge took more time than for an established venue. On the flip side, all dates in 2023 and 2024 were open for booking.

The Amity House was restored by the Friends in 2023 and should also be available to rent in 2024.

The event coordinator contract stipulated that the coordinator would attend all events and be available to clients.

The governance committee delved into the complicated issue of changing the payment schedule, with Price offering a formula to eventually pay all commissions after money was received from clients.

Green rejected the board’s first two proposals. The second proposal included an increase of her monthly pay to $1,500.

The board recognized that if Green resigned, she probably would not feel responsible for attending previously booked events and manage issues that arise with tenants. The board would need to pay someone else to handle the hosting duties.

Offers and counter-offers went back and forth between Green and the board.

Price said the board appreciated the work  Green has done, and the board’s effort to correct a faulty payment method was not a reflection on her performance. They were pleased with her effort.

Special meeting

RJRD board members re-convened on Feb. 6 and agreed to the monthly pay of $1,500 and to a gradual shift over three years of paying commission when the monies are paid to the park.

The contract did not address commission paid for renting Amity House, however, Lyons said it may be implied in the contract, or the board might have to add an addendum to the contract. ∞