Cautious council reduces term from three years to nine months

The Wilsonville City Council approved a contract with Wilsonville Community Sharing last week, but shortened the term from the recommended three years to just nine months in light of recent concerns over the nonprofit’s leadership and JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville Community Sharing is currently seeking a lease agreement with Frog Pond Church to house a facility on its property.

The city grants nearly $30,000 a year to WCS. It has been supporting the organization financially for the last 15 years, with the amount growing over the years. This amount now equates to 40 percent of WCS’s annual revenue. WCS operates a food bank and assists with utilities, housing and prescriptions for those in need.

In the past, the city incorporated the grant informally into its annual budget, but eventually decided it was time to make it into a formal grant.

WCS was first organized in the late 1970s and reorganized as a nonprofit in 1997. In 2000, WCS opened the Wilsonville Food Bank, which is housed at Meridian United Church of Christ, also known as Frog Pond Church.

In 2012, the food bank served 4,880 people, which represents nearly 1,600 families. Also that year, WCS fielded 1,460 calls for assistance.

For nearly three years, WCS has wished to expand beyond its current location. In January, the group stated publicly that it had identified three potential sites to build a new facility, thanks in part to a $240,000 community development block grant it was awarded in July 2012.

With the clock nearly running out, the nonprofit is still trying to seal a deal to build a facility on Meridian United’s property.

Over the summer, concern arose about the WCS Board and its chairman, Richard Truitt, as well as the process used to decide where to build the new facility. Also, the WCS Board, whose bylaws dictated membership of at least seven, dwindled to just two members by August.

Some questioned how just two volunteer board members, who are both members of Meridian United, could handle negotiating a lease for a new facility without bias.

Some have also questioned the proposed site’s location, which is on Southwest Advance Road near Southwest Wilsonville Road. This location is on a bus line, but the stop is not near the church, causing some transportation issues for some people.

Costs of the proposed facility were also questioned. What was originally thought of as a $400,000 building has escalated to nearly $800,000. The estimate includes $146,000 for site construction costs and $350,000 in building construction costs.

Since a story ran in the Spokesman about WCS (“Is the food bank crumbling?” Aug. 14) the nonprofit has made some changes. Holding two back-to-back meetings in the same week in September, the board added two new members, making the total five, despite board bylaws stating potential members must attend two meetings before joining the board.

The WCS Board released a statement to explain the changes.

“WCS is pleased to welcome three new board members in the past two months,” the statement read. “Wes Morris, Claudia Roldan and Larry Edwards bring a variety of experiences in community service, and they add to the diversity of our leadership. Each new member has become quickly engaged and has accepted important responsibilities in their capacity as board members.”

The expanded board also voted Sept. 19 to amend its bylaws. Potential board members now only need to attend one meeting rather than two before being appointed; the board size shrunk from seven-10 members to five-seven; and the president can now appoint someone to the board if a seat is vacated.

“WCS updated our bylaws to reflect the way the organization has been operating for over a decade. The changes, made with advice from our attorney, are consistent with sound practice for nonprofit organizations,” according to the WCS Board’s statement.

Despite what seem to be positive changes and movement for the WCS Board, members of the Wilsonville City Council were hesitant to commit to the full three years of the contract dedicating money to the nonprofit quarterly.

According to Mark Ottenad, public/government affairs director, the city withheld the latest quarterly payment, which was due at the start of October, until the WCS Board was full and the contract approved.

City Attorney Mike Kohlhoff told the council that the there is no question the money granted to WCS went into operations and was properly used.

“We delayed our funding until you could get your house in order,” Kohlhoff said at the Oct. 7 meeting.

Councilor Julie Fitzgerald asked WCS representation some questions about its board, its meeting and its members’ terms. And Truitt told her the board was in compliance with its bylaws.

During public testimony, Jay Puppo said, “My family believes in the mission of Wilsonville Community Sharing. ... I’m concerned. I’ve watched this organization from the inside ... and the outside ... and there are issues that need to be resolved.”

Puppo’s wife, Tammy Puppo, resigned in July after serving on the board for five years. Jay Puppo was instrumental in the site selection search process and recently expressed concerns about the board’s leadership.

He told the city council he was having a lawyer conduct research on the how the board added its new members and changed its bylaws. And he also he spoke with a Department of Justice representative who was concerned.

Puppo said he was concerned about the management of WCS and was glad the council was reviewing the actions of the board.

Marilyn Watson, a food bank volunteer, also spoke at the meeting. She was concerned about serving the community and questioned the food bank’s location.

“It is uncertain how many people are not being served in the community,” she said. Watson also told the council that the WCS Board was out of compliance with its bylaws for a year.

Truitt’s wife, Toni Avery, spoke in support of her husband, WCS and the process.

Kohlhoff, reminding the council the issue at vote was strictly for funding operations, said, “I think we’ve gone carefully over past reports. ... The use of city funds has been appropriate.”

Councilor Scott Starr moved to decrease the contract length from three years to just three months, and Fitzgerald seconded it.

“(In) the nature of everything that’s gone on,” he said, “I don’t want to stop the funding ... (but) I think I’d like a bit more time to think things through.”

Councilor Susie Stevens said, “I really want to make sure we come back to this. This is a very important program that serves the needs of many people.”

After some discussion and worry about the term ending during the winter holidays, Starr agreed to amend his motion to end the contract at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2014.

Though Fitzgerald acknowledged the city has no jurisdiction on how WCS runs, she said she wants to make sure the city awards funds to an organization that is stable.

“I hope that we wouldn’t take an incredibly detailed role in judging what is going on and what took place,” she said.

“I think it’s clear that many people ... support the mission of this group,” Mayor Tim Knapp said. “It’s clear there are some concerns unresolved. ... It’s not up to the council to make decisions for this group.”

The council voted 5-0 to approve the contract ending June 30, 2014.

(The) “WCS Board is pleased that Wilsonville City Council unanimously approved the recommendation,” according to a statement from the board. “This grant will enable WCS to continue providing essential assistance to those most in need in our community. We were especially gratified to hear the city councilors’ comments on how well WCS addresses the assistance needs of the community.”

Lori Hall can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 103. Follow her on Twitter, @wspokesman.

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