PERRYSBURG - A whirlwind of reported threats, financial difficulties and a high-profile resignation are painting a difficult picture for the Perrysburg Heights Community Association.
|Teen volunteer Brooklyn Craig (right) with kids at Perrysburg Heights Community Center. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Tuesday's scheduled meeting of the PHCA board was canceled abruptly due to threats made against members.
"We had to cancel that at the last minute," said Steven Kramer, vice president of the PHCA. He said that the threats were directed at multiple members of the PHCA's eight-member board, "but I really can't comment on the specific details of the threats."
A new meeting date has not yet been set.
The matter was reported to Perrysburg Township Police, Kramer said. Police Chief Mark Hetrick confirmed that there was a request for an extra police patrol during Tuesday's meeting. He said he was unaware of any reports regarding threats made against board members.
Kramer also confirmed that PHCA head Stephanie Serda resigned her position last week.
"She was not forced out," he said. "She just resigned as president and executive director."
Serda is the daughter of Anita Serda, who founded the PHCA in 1991 and served as its first executive director, and most recently served on the board.
Anita Serda, however, also recently departed the board, according to PHCA Treasurer Jason Craig, though he declined to say why.
These issues seem to compound the fact that the organization is facing financial difficulties.
Last month, the PHCA board voted to suspend operation of its community center, 12282 Jefferson St., indefinitely, and to no longer have paid staff. Running the center can cost upwards of $130,000 per year.
An emergency meeting called later in May rescinded the vote, and the board decided to keep the center open while attempting to raise more funds.
Stephanie Serda appeared last Wednesday at a meeting of the Perrysburg Township department heads, and was queried by Township Administrator Walt Celley about the organization. Celley noted "there appears to be some upheaval on your board of trustees."
Serda had then intimated that changes on the board could be possible at the annual meeting, which was scheduled for June 24.
Kramer characterized the climate on the board by saying "the majority of the board is very positive and focused on the future. We want to keep the center open, expand programs. We'd like to hold the (South of the Border) Festival, but that's very difficult."
The annual festival is currently slated for Aug. 10, and tickets have been printed. An early batch of tickets was stolen this spring and had to be re-done.
Kramer attributed the recent financial woes of the center to fundraising difficulties.
"Our fundraising committee has not been as successful as we would have hoped," he said, something Serda had also discussed previously.
"We might be in good shape, we have a number of proposals out and have not heard from prospective donors."
"As far as the festival goes, which is a source of money in past years, we'd like to hold the festival," but Kramer cited "difficulties" in doing so, including the large amount of work that goes into the festival.
The festival has reportedly operated at a loss the past three years, according to Craig.
"Unfortunately we have, over the last few years, we've not been able to get the attendance to make the kind of money we used to make in the olden days," said Craig.
Kramer also said that the festival's former organizer, identified by Craig as Anita Serda, has not made information, including contracts, available.
Craig indicated that Anita Serda additionally resigned as festival coordinator.
"A number of things have happened already," with the festival, said Kramer, "such as contracts with bands and other people, organizations, and we haven't been able to obtain that information from the previous coordinator."
"We don't know what the contracts are," he continued. "I do know one contract, I was given one contract, but I was not given anything else."
Additionally, information on donors and donations received this year for the festival are not readily available for the same reason.
"That person is no longer coordinating the festival," said Kramer. "She declined to coordinate it this year. She was not forced out, but she said she will not be coordinating it this year."
Craig indicated that of the roughly $130,000 it takes to run the center annually, that includes $70,000 in payroll this year, and $20,000 to $30,000 in driveway improvements. Without these expenses, he said, the center could be run for $40,000 annually with volunteers.
"We were a volunteer organization for 22 years. We've only paid for an executive director for two years," he said, expressing that the PHCA in doing so took on "more than we could chew."
"And that's the facts."
Craig indicated that the PHCA will be issuing a press release at a later date to address issues with the organization.