The Saratoga Sun -

Garden board gets past dirt

Suggest plan to merge with Laramie non-profit to quickly leave town’s supervision

 


A controversy that has been simmering between the Saratoga Community Garden Board and the Saratoga Town Council may be on its way to an amicable solution after a recent discussion between Garden Board member Steve Deorio and members of the Saratoga Town Council last week.

For weeks, the Garden Board and Town Council members struggled to come to accord and find a way to spin the garden board off into a self-managing nonprofit. The issue began late last year during a town council meeting where council member Will Faust suggested the garden be separated from the town, who currently acts as the Garden Board’s financial agent. Those negotiations were tainted by a hostile atmosphere caused by allegations of financial impropriety against members of the garden board.

After tensions cooled some, board members and town council members began discussing a process whereby the garden board would be incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and grant monies provided by the USDA would fall under the supervision of the board itself rather than the town.

Even though members of the town council and members of the garden board both indicated they were amenable to discussing that potential solution, the process soon became bogged down again as the two sides tried to work out the costs of incorporating the garden board as a nonprofit, and how much of those costs the town would bear.

To solve the stalemate, Garden Board member Steve Deorio presented a plan at the last town council meeting, he hoped would allow the members of the garden board to move beyond the tensions and begin preparing for the rapidly approaching gardening season.

Under the plan floated by Deorio, the Saratoga Garden Board would fold itself into an existing nonprofit called Feeding Laramie Valley, an Albany County based nonprofit dedicated to sustainable agriculture.

Under the scheme, the Saratoga Garden Board’s grant from the USDA—currently managed by the town—would be transferred to the Laramie Valley nonprofit who would become the Saratoga Garden Board’s financial agent.

Such a move, Deorio said, would allow the garden to quickly separate itself from the town with a minimum of expense to the board or the town. The board would essentially “piggyback” on Laramie Valley’s nonprofit charter, and become a club, Deorio said.

All the Garden Board would need before making the move is a lease for the garden plot from the town.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said council member Will Faust, who suggested joining with an established garden nonprofit would benefit the Garden Board, who could rely on expertise of Feed Laramie Valley while managing the garden.

“I know I’ve taken quite a bit of heat on this,” Faust said. “But it’s always been my intent that we see the community garden succeed and thrive and I really think this is a great idea.”

Cindy Bloomquist of the Garden Board said the move was meant to give the board time. “We could decide next year if we want our own 501(c)(3), but not this week,” she said. Bloomquist added the group had not decided yet whether to form its own nonprofit at a later date.

Bloomquist and Deorio cite the time and expense of setting up a nonprofit as a significant impediment, especially after negotiations to have the town help pay the cost of setting up as a nonprofit seemed to stall.

“We just can’t afford this,” Deorio told the Saratoga Sun, pointing out establishing a nonprofit can cost up to $2,000. “We’re a group of half dozen people, it makes no sense.”

Some council members suggested the Garden Board raise funds through donations to get the money to setup as a nonprofit. However, the board cannot even get its own banking accounts until it is incorporated as a nonprofit, and none of the donations would be tax deductible.

Deorio said he did not think fundraising to establish the board as a nonprofit this year would work, but conceded if the group wants to incorporate next year as its own nonprofit entity, it will likely have to raise funds from members of the public.

 

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