SANDOWN – Despite much talk from acting chair Brenda Copp, the board of selectmen decided to accept two donations to the Old Home Days Committee, one made to the group and the other facilitated by it.
The agenda item for the matter indicated that the board was to decide on accepting a donation to the Old Home Days Committee and one to the Sandown Senior Affairs Transportation Program (SSATP), usually a quick vote, but Copp used the opportunity to question the finances and practices of the Old Home Days Committee.
The funds in question both came from the first night of Old Home Days, a Friday night. A Ham and Bean Supper allowed residents to make donations to the SSATP in lieu of an entrance fee, and later a play put on by the young performers of the Southern New Hampshire Musical Theatre Camp garnered funds from ticket sales.
The musical theater camp is run out of the Sandlot Sports complex on North Road. Ed Mencis and Linda Meehan own that property and donate its use for Old Home Days festivities.
Copp’s initial argument was that the Old Home Days Committee was the only committee or department in town that was able to direct where its revenue went. Other departments had all revenue go into the general fund, she said.
“No other departments have the privilege to say where their revenue goes,” said Copp, adding that a privilege granted to one group should be granted to all. Other members had issues with Copp’s assessment of the donated funds as revenue, as well as with her statements that all town revenues went to the general fund.
Copp argued that the funds that made the dinner possible were initially taxpayer money, so money derived from the event should be considered revenue. Volunteers staffed the events and the food was donated. The town hall was the site of the meal.
Though at times during the conversation she was talked over by Copp, town manager Lynne Blaisdell eventually explained that the Old Home Days committee has a fund solely used to take in and expend donations, and that accepting money for later use was not a new scenario.
The SSATP pulled in about $500 from the supper alone, but together with raffles and other fundraising that weekend, raised $1,990. The theater camp decided to donate the $400 earned from the show back to the Old Home Days committee. In a letter, Linda Meehan spoke for the group, stating that the production was a great opportunity for the children to perform and show off their skills and she hoped that it could be made an annual tradition.
In reference to the players’ donation, Copp said she would like to see Meehan retract the money and give it to any organization she wanted, or see the Old Home Days Committee reduce the sum it seeks from the town next year by the amount of donated funds.
Other members, including Hans Nicolaisen, argued that Meehan clearly wanted the funds to go to enhance Old Home Days. Selectman Terry Treanor agreed with Copp’s idea of asking the Old Home Days Committee to reduce its request from the town next year in light of donations and leftover funds from this year’s events. He explained that as a member of the committee, he had previously stated this to the group.
Treanor was one of the people who made the Ham and Bean Supper possible by donating the hams and other foods. Selectman Jim Devine said the funds allocated to Old Home Days and donations should be available for use next year. Devine argued that such funds should be encumbered, but it wasn’t clear that this was an acceptable process, as there are rules on what can be encumbered.
Eventually the board voted to accept the funds and leave things status quo, but Copp noted she had already set up a meeting with the committee next month to ask about its procedures.
Nicolaisen concluded the conversation by questioning the need for it.
“I can’t believe we just spent 45 minutes discussing whether to accept a donation,” he said.