01/01/12 — Stoney Creek Park Alliance dissolves self -- for now

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Stoney Creek Park Alliance dissolves self -- for now

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 1, 2012 1:50 AM

The group that has been at the forefront of the development of a city park since its inception no longer formally exists beginning today after optioning to dissolve its relationship with the Wayne Charitable Partnership.

The Stoney Creek Park Alliance, which began as the Stoney Creek Park Development Committee eight years ago, transitioned into a non-profit organization to become a coffer for Parks and Recreation projects at Stoney Creek Park. Tax-deductible donations to the Alliance went toward the creation of the park's disc golf course and the more than $16,000 dog park project. The group also assisted in the acquisition of property for the park, which spans from Ash to Elm streets along the creek.

A letter dated Nov. 3 from Wayne Charitable Partnership Chairwoman Julie Daniels addressed City Manager Scott Stevens, a member of the Alliance, and explained that the Partnership's "incubation" period of the Alliance was coming to an end.

The letter explained that the Partnership's goal is to allow new organizations the benefits of being tax-exempt in their early years so that members can focus on their mission instead of paperwork. But now, due to the maturity and successes of the Alliance, the Partnership asked that the Alliance form its own 501c-3 organization and dissolve its affiliate agreement by March 31.

Attached to the letter were eight invoices from the past four years that had not been paid by the Alliance. According to the agreement between the Alliance and the Partnership, the Stoney Creek Park Alliance was to reimburse the Partnership for the pro rata costs of audits and insurance. The unpaid invoices total $1,397.50.

A letter in response was drafted at the Stoney Creek Park Alliance's

Dec. 15 meeting, indicating that the Alliance wished to dissolve the Partnership agreement on Dec. 31 and pay only those invoices dated for 2011. The Partnership has since determined to write off the previous unpaid invoices.

"The partnership decided to give them leeway on those bills," Mrs. Daniels said. "There was a little bit of confusion as to if they had been invoiced in the past. We collected those fees from them in '06 and '07 but had not collected '08, '09, '10 or '11 yet. There was some discussion as to were these invoiced to them, and we made the decision to not force it to be paid since it wasn't clear that they had been presented those bills."

The Alliance's last meeting also revealed the confusion of members about what their organization actually is. Despite their public shift from a standing city committee to a non-profit in 2006, some members of the Alliance, including District 2 City Councilman Bob Waller, still believe the group is a city committee, in large part because the by-laws dictate that only the City Council can approve appointments to the group.

With the discussion of the group's future on the table, Waller insisted that the group maintain the status quo, even as Chairwoman Sissy Lee-Elmore was asking for approval of the letter asking for the dissolution of the Alliance effective at the beginning of 2012.

The Alliance was already discussing its future when it received the letter from the Partnership, but it had been members' intention to see the completion of the current phase of renovations to the park, which were being made possible by a grant the Alliance assisted the city in receiving. In their original discussion, the options for the Alliance's continued existence -- forming a separate non-profit group, joining the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee or becoming a subcommittee to that city group -- gave way to a motion to table that discussion until the new year and the decision to send the letter to the Partnership, effectively ending the Alliance's formal existence today.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said it didn't seem that the members of the Alliance wanted to form their own non-profit organization, and that expenses were likely a deterrent as forming a non-profit corporation can be especially difficult when there is a lack of cash flow and spare time among members who all work full-time jobs.

At the meeting Dec. 15, Barnard pointed out the number of vacancies on the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee and suggested that a subcommittee could be grown out of just one overlapping member between the subcommittee and the committee. One member, Ben Farlow, applied and was accepted to the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, and as of the Dec. 19 City Council meeting, there were still four vacancies on that committee.

Waller said Friday his group wasn't sure of its immediate future, insisting again that the group was a committee similar to the Historical Commission because the city appointed its members. He then suggested the Alliance would become a subcommittee of the larger advisory group, but said there were no formal plans.

"I just think we're going to keep on operating," he said, adding that he doesn't see any need for future fundraising. "We may not be called the Alliance or a committee. The only reason we were the Alliance was for fundraising. We're not planning on any fundraisers. If we do, we'll just get it for the city. We can still support the park and have ideas. I think we've done a heck of a job. We got all the money for the dog park and we worked hard and did that."

There is still a listing for the "Stoney Creek Park Committee" to meet on the city of Goldsboro's list of regular meetings in January, but that Jan. 19 meeting will be attended by individuals acting without formal recognition as either a corporation or a city committee and likely without any assets outside of membership.

That's because there are strict rules for the distribution of assets when a non-profit organization dissolves.

Wayne County Chamber of Commerce Director of Operations Janet Brock explained that the affiliate agreement between the Alliance and the Partnership explicitly states that all assets, books and records held in the name of the Stoney Creek Park Alliance are the property of the Partnership and subject to the custody and control of it, as well.

The agreement also states that no assets or earnings controlled by

the Alliance are to be

distributed to any private persons.

According to state law, after all liabilities and obligations of the corporation are paid, other assets must be transferred to the federal or state government or another similar non-profit organization.

As of Dec. 24, former Alliance Chairman Peter Roethling said the Alliance's assets amounted to $4,232.12, not counting the $415 the Alliance agreed to pay the Partnership for audits and insurance in 2011.

Mrs. Brock said it was likely the Alliance's assets would revert to the Partnership. If the Alliance were to form its own non-profit corporation, she said there was a chance those funds could be given to the new organization.

Waller said that course of action was based on a "technical" interpretation of the agreement, and said he was confident the money would go toward some effort at the park, although the Alliance members haven't discussed it.

"Say what you want to but it's our money," he said, adding that he felt the Wayne Charitable Partnership wouldn't take it and use it for anything other than its intended purpose: development of the park.