Mad River Union
MANILA - The Manila town board finally resolved an issue last week that has consumed its members, its staff and some community members for much of the year – the management of the Manila Family Resource Center.
At its Sept. 17 meeting, the Manila Community Services District Board of Directors voted 3-2, with directors Salena Kahle and Dendra Dengler dissenting, in favor of a memorandum of understanding that transfers management of the resource center from the district to Redwood Coast Montessori.
The school rents classroom space from the district at the Manila Community Center, where the resource center also occupies a couple of rooms. The district owns the center. The Manila Family Resource Center will stay in the same place and Director Carole Wolfe will still run the program. However, the school will oversee management rather than the district.
The district has devoted numerous meetings to the topic, including two Sunday afternoon “visioning” meetings in which residents spent hours giving input on the future of the program and the Manila Community Center.
That lengthy process seemed to be almost over on June 18 when the board voted unanimously in favor of the management change. However, in later meetings the squabbling continued as the board debated the nitty gritty details of the transfer agreement.
The disagreements continued at last week’s meeting, which required numerous votes to shepherd the management change forward.
When the meeting started, all board members were present except for Kahle. Director Jan Bramlett made a motion to move the management issue higher up on the meeting agenda. The motion passed 3-1, with Dengler dissenting. Kahle arrived moments later and was able to participate in the night’s main event.
As part of the transfer, the board had to agree on an inventory of assets belonging to the resource center such as pots and pans, folding chairs, a coffee maker and wastepaper baskets.
All the board members, except for Dengler, agreed on the inventory list. Explaining her opposition, Dengler said “I’m just looking at this now. I tried to look at it at home, but, you know, I just feel like there’s two people here who know what came with the community center, and I can see some things here that I think, um, might not belong to the family resource center ... so that needs to be looked at.”
Before voting against the inventory, Dengler said “I think you’re transferring district assets.” Dengler did not indicate which assets did not belong on the list, nor did she suggest any edits.
The next issue the board wrangled over was proposed changes to the memorandum of understanding transferring management from the district to the school.
Under the agreement, about 1,800 square feet of space would be set aside for the resource center. The agreement does not specify which rooms would be used for the program. This was intended to give the school some flexibility.
Kahle, however, wanted specific rooms designated for the resource center.
“Our responsibility is not to make sure it’s all flexible enough for the school, other than the fact that they are tenants,” Kahle said. “Our responsibility is to the community, which stated they wanted these two rooms to be maintained for the community.”
Kahle was also concerned about the resource center advisory committee that will be created under the new arrangement. The agreement requires the committee to meet at least once a quarter. Kahle said she wanted the committee to meet monthly.
Director Jan Bramlett wondered aloud why directors were getting hung up on the advisory committee.
“I don’t remember there ever being an advisory board that had any input into the family resource center in the whole four years that I’ve been on the board,” Bramlett said. “I don’t think there was one for a long time before that.”
With a motion – made by Director Joy Dellas and seconded by Bramlett – on the floor, the board was ready to move forward. However, Dengler decided to amend the motion.
She held up a piece of paper that she had copied and handed out to the board at the beginning of the meeting. She asked that the language on the backside of the piece of paper be included as part of the MOU.
This created some confusion, with audience members in the dark as to what was on the paper.
It turned out to be a proposal written by Bryan Little, the director of Redwood Coast Montessori. The proposal was written earlier in the year and submitted to the district. It includes numerous proposed services that the school would try to provide to the community if it managed the family resource center.
Dengler’s motion to amend rankled Director Dellas. “This is last minute on something that’s taken three months to push through and you’re trying to stick something on at the last minute and it’s ridiculous,” Dellas said.
Little also objected to the proposed change.
“This has been a fairly lengthy negotiating process and I think it’s a little unwarranted to bring something in at the last moment,” Little said.
As for what was written on the piece of paper, Little said he had a basic understanding of what it was, but noted that he has written several different things to the district. “It seems a little unprofessional,” Little said about the motion.
With a motion on the floor, and another motion by Dengler to amend the motion, there was a moment of parliamentary confusion. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace, a veteran of government meetings, asked Woolley to clarify what the board would be voting on so everyone would be clear on what they were doing.
In the end, the board voted 3-2 against Dengler’s motion to amend the
MOU. The divided board then voted 3-2, with Dengler and Kahle dissenting, to approve minor revisions to the MOU.
Then it was time for the final vote to actually approve the MOU.
Kahle explained that she would be voting against the MOU. “I think we’re serving the school more than we’re serving the community,” Kahle said.
Dengler said she would be voting no because the proposed services, as outlined in her earlier failed motion, are not in the agreement.
Woolley then explained why he thought the change in management would be good for the community.
The change, he said, would be good for the school, good for the resource center and good for everyone. “This is a good deal for our community on the North Spit,” Woolley said.
The board ultimately voted 3-2, with Kahle and Dengler dissenting, to approve the MOU.
“I think overall it’s a good deal for everyone,” Woolley said in an interview.
Now that this issue is resolved, Woolley said, “I think we need to take a breath of fresh air and see what to do next.”
Woolley noted that on Nov. 3 there are three seats up for grabs on the Manila board. Those seats are now held by Bramlett, Dellas and Kahle. Both Dellas and Kahle are not running for reelection.
The candidates for the three seats are Bramlett, Carla Leopardo, Daniel O’Leary, Susan Opalach, Beverly Prosser and Carol Vander Meer.
“It’s possible the whole tenor of the board could change,” Woolley said, noting that three seats make up a board majority.