The Saratoga Community Garden, at its Monday meeting, discussed the process for the group to become a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit as well as preparations for the upcoming growing season.
As a non-profit, the community garden would then manage its own funds and grants without relying on the town of Saratoga to act as a custodian of funds. The move to convert the group to a nonprofit group came after a controversial two months that saw members of the garden board pitted against town council members.
In December, town council member Will Faust raised questions about the garden board and suggested that the board would be better off as a non-profit. However, at the meeting Faust also made allegations about possible financial improprieties involving garden board members.
Those allegations wound up overshadowing the debate about the potential benefits to the garden board and the town by moving the garden board to nonprofit status.
“We have taken a very bad hit,” said Steve Deorio, a member of the garden board. “There has been a lot of damage that has been done.”
Cindy Bloomquist, another garden board member who was attending the meeting via SKYPE, agreed with Deorio, saying that ever since the allegations of financial mismanagement were made public, several members of the public had asked her in public what happened with the garden board’s money.
One member of the town council, Steve Wilcoxson, was at the meeting to try and smooth over some ruffled feathers among garden board members, saying he felt the garden board had been vindicated.
“I don’t think that there’s a been a problem here,” Wilcoxson said. “You guys had all your invoices and stuff, but the only thing I can do—I can start from here.”
Wilcoxson went on to say that he could not speak for others on the town council, but that in his opinion there were no grounds to suspect anyone on the garden board of any sort of unfair dealing, and that he was hopeful the board could continue to work with the town council to move forward into nonprofit status.
Saratoga Mayor Ed Glode also attended the meeting to discuss the process of turning the garden board into a nonprofit, and to promise the town’s support in doing so.
Glode gave advice to garden board members on how to move forward with becoming a non-profit and said garden board members could rely on assistance from the town with the expenses of becoming a nonprofit, such as articles of incorporation and tax filings with the IRS.
The garden board, Glode said, could go ahead and begin the process of converting to a nonprofit now. Even though it would take some time to complete, the board could get its own banking accounts and start managing its own funds. About the only thing the board cannot do until nonprofit status is recognized by the IRS is offer switch to nonprofit status happen, planning for the paperwork and other logistical items that would have to be done before, and divvying up those tasks among members.
The Board also began discussing the garden budget and how much money the board would ask the town to chip in to cover the expenses of switching over to a nonprofit.
The next meeting of the Saratoga Community Garden Board will be held 5:30 p.m., Monday, March 13 at Saratoga Town Hall.