Main Street Orion funding sparks heated discussion

Mindy Carls

Main Street Orion will receive $10,000 from the Village of Orion during 2019-20, trustees decided on Monday, May 15.

The discussion was heated. When Trustee Jamie Lawson demanded more financial information from Main Street, executive director Candice Schultz dropped the Main Street checkbook on the table in front of him.

Later, as the discussion grew more heated, Lawson threatened to quit and left the meeting. He did not return.

David Schultz, Candice’s husband and a member of the Main Street board, noted $10,000 was the amount the organization historically requested.

Trustee Bob Mitton said every village board member is behind Main Street Orion and supports what the organization does.

Mitton said he spoke for all board members, and they all feel the executive director needs to be paid.

But his understanding was that Main Street Orion was supposed to support itself without village funds.

Orion resident Janet Marshall said the organization has to follow national guidelines for Main Street organizations. Orion must receive financial support from the local governing body.

Mitton said Main Street at one point received $8,000, and now receives $10,000.

“Are we headed the wrong way?” he asked. “You have $56,000 in your accounts.”

Candice Schultz said the $56,000 was the budget, not savings.

Mitton pointed out the $56,000 was $5,000 more than the previous year, and Schultz said the $5,000 represented money carried over for facade improvement grants that have been approved but not paid out yet.

Mitton said other non-profit groups, such as Orion Lions Club, Scouts, Orion Fall Festival and summer youth sports leagues do not ask the village for funds.

The village’s contribution to Main Street maybe should be cut back, Mitton said.

“You are the only non-profit organization that comes to us and asks for money,” the trustee said.

Mitton moved the contribution to Main Street Orion be reduced to $6,000. Lawson seconded the motion.

When he was reminded that national guidelines require local governing bodies to contribute to Main Street, Lawson asked how much funding the national program gives to the Orion program.

Nothing, Candice Schultz said. Main Street Orion pays them.

Also, the national program requires paying the director, she said. It is not a volunteer position.

Lawson said he had asked for minutes of board meetings and received four instead of 12.

Candice Schultz replied that the board didn’t have a quorum for eight of the meetings.

Lawson also asked for income and expense statements for each month.

David Schultz pointed out that packets presented to trustees on Monday night included a list of annual expenses.

Candice Schultz said Main Street is not a government entity and is not required to turn over financial information.

Lawson said he wanted a monthly report on the table at village board meetings.

When Lawson said he wanted a monthly bank statement, Candice Schultz repeated that Main Street Orion was not required to submit the information.

“It’s not your business,” she said, but she walked over and dropped the group’s check register on the table in front of him.

Village officials can come to Main Street Orion board members, David Schultz said.

Given the rising emotions in the room, Jim Cooper tried to gavel the meeting into order.

“Let’s all take a deep breath,” he said.

Lawson interrupted the village president and talked over him.

Marshall said she wished village board members would come to Main Street events.

“We’ve abrogated our responsibilities,” Village Trustee Mel Drucker said. “Twenty years ago, when this was set up, we were supposed to have a village board member on the Main Street board.

“Somewhere along the way, we dropped the ball,” Drucker said. “So we’re partly responsible. Nobody volunteered.”

Lawson responded, “You bring it to us, and we shouldn’t have to go to you.”

Candice Schultz, noting the trustees’ interest in her salary, $16,000 for 1,040 hours (about $15 an hour), said the village’s $10,000 contribution does not go toward her pay.

She said the Main Street board decides on her salary.

Main Street Orion receives funds from private organizations, businesses and individuals, she said.

Cooper noted the village has reserves in case something happens, and Candice Schultz said Main Street has savings, too.

“I’m listening, I understand it all,” Lawson said.

Cooper said Drucker had brought up a good point. He asked Schultz if he had a volunteer to represent the village on the Main Street board, would she accept the person?

“Of course,” she said.

An Orion resident asked why Lawson and Mitton were so negative toward Main Street.

“Don’t take it personally,” Lawson said. “It’s taxpayer money we’re talking about. I sit on this board to represent the people of this community. I’ll get up and walk out right now. You think I sit on this board to go against Main Street Orion? I’ll quit this board right now.”

Cooper told Lawson to sit down, but he walked out as an Orion resident suggested he put his resignation in writing.

After Lawson left the meeting room, Mitton said, “I don’t know what’s negative.”

He asked if Main Street already had $4,200 more than last year, why did it need $6,000?

David Schultz said most of the organization’s income comes in January, including $10,000 the village board approved the year before. He repeated the amount includes thousands set aside for facade grants.

He noted Main Street Orion is different from Orion Fall Festival and Orion Lions Club. The three organizations serve different needs.

Fall Festival assists individuals with medical needs, and also helps with community needs — such as helping the village obtain security cameras for Central Park.

The Lions Club and Fall Festival do not have full-time leadership, David Schultz said.

He pointed out it’s against the law to hire someone for 20 hours a week and require them to work any time at all on a volunteer basis.

David Schultz said he prepares monthly reports but didn’t know Lawson wanted them.

He addressed a misunderstanding about how long village financial support was supposed to last.

When Main Street Orion was founded 20 years ago, the village board committed to helping fund it for three years, Schultz said. Since then, the board has made a commitment for one year at a time.

If the village board’s contribution to Main Street had kept up with inflation, it would be closer to $15,000, David Schultz said.

Most local governing bodies provide 40 percent of Main Street funding, but Orion’s $10,000 is only 14 percent of the organization’s revenue, he said.

The Coulter Trust provides $10,000 for Main Street, Schultz said.

Main Street doesn’t want to compete for funds with other organizations in a small town, he said.

Main Street Orion sponsors five events at Orion Fall Festival, as well as the Daddy-Daughter Dance, Haunted Halloween Hustle and Saturday with Santa, David Schultz said. Lions Club isn’t doing any of those.

Jean Combites, a former Orion resident now living in Moline, said the community needs to keep going forward and cannot go backward. She called Main Street “a wonderful program that deserves respect.”

“I have every right to ask questions,” Mitton said. “David has brought up excellent points.”

Cooper said, “We support Main Street, we don’t want to lose Main Street.”

Addressing Candice Schultz, the village president said, “I can attest to the amount of time you put in. That one parking space has your name on it. Main Street is a big, big part of this community.”

Mitton said that after listening to David Schultz, he wanted to drop his motion to reduce the Main Street contribution to $6,000, and to leave $10,000 in the budget.

Lawson had not returned, and the board voted unanimously to approve the $10,000 for Main Street and then to approve the budget as a whole.

After the meeting, Village Clerk Lori Sampson said that if Lawson intended to resign, he would have to do it in writing.