Veterans Memorial Building May Cut Ties with the City
Veterans Memorial Building services may change in November.
By Jean McLeod — Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
With the recent layoff of roughly 50% of Fillmore City employees and the City’s diminished capacity to provide service, the Veterans Memorial Building (VMB) Board is questioning the City’s ability to deliver on the services they need.
The service contract with the City was originally entered into about twelve years ago due to VMB fluctuating employment needs. The facility sometimes needs workers to set up tables, cook in the kitchen and do various task when it is rented out; but bookings are not consistent, making it difficult to maintain employees. The City, at the time of the contract agreement, had full time employees available and could provided most of VMB’s service needs. One City employee, Annette Cardona, is knowledgeable of what a services are needed and what to charge customers. But Cardona may be leaving as an employee at the end of the year, and with only half of the City staff available it is questionable how well the VMB can be serviced.
The land where the VMB stands was donated by the Shields Family and built in 1952 to recognize our veteran’s service. It is a Special District authorized in the California Veterans Memorial Code and has the largest non-sectarian hall/ballroom in Fillmore along with a large banquet room, kitchen, lobby and basement where rifles and flags used for funerals and Memorial Day Parades are stored along with other equipment.
A majority of the seats on the Board must be designated for veterans. The VMB’s Board consists of five members of which three must be veterans. Board members receive no compensation, but are entitled to actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties.
The election of board members is governed by the provisions of the Uniform District Election Law which normally holds election of Board Members on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each odd-numbered year. The VMB is responsible for the cost of being on a ballot, so Jim Herbert, a board member at the time, pushed to get the election on even years, when the general election is held, to save costs.
In the 90’s board seats were often vacant with not enough filed papers to fill the positions. When there is only one filing for a position, the election process is completely avoided and the qualified person who files can automatically fill the position. Today’s Board Members are: John Pressey (Secretary 4 years), Dwight Magness (Treasurer), Tom McGrath (Member at Large), Bill Morris (Vice Chairman). James Miller, who was the only person to file papers this year and may be joining the Board as early as next month to fill the fifth member position.
In the 90’s, due to the VMB being in a tight financial situation, a measure was put on the ballot to raise the $5 parcel tax, but lost. About that time the City proposed adding the VMB to its insurance umbrella to help cover some of VMB’s property and liability insurance expense.
Don Gunderson, a retired Navy Captain (23 yrs) served on the Board from 2003-2007. Gunderson came to Fillmore in 1985 after four and a half years working in Washington D.C. for the Pentagon where he worked with a one billion dollar budget on the anti-warfare ship missile system. During Gunderson’s time on the Board and with the help of Annette Cardona, the VMB applied for and received about $300,000 in Community Block Grants. The money was used to replace outdated equipment and bring the restrooms up to ADA standards. Around that time the VMB also considered forming a recreation district, which is permitted in the Veterans Memorial Code, but the idea was short lived and did not go anywhere.
A grant was applied for last year and the Board thought they would receive some money but were denied at the last minute. The VMB welcomes any donations of time and money.
The main sources of revenue is renting the facility for wedding receptions, school functions and various organizations with summer often being its busiest season. In addition, each parcel in Fillmore/Piru/Bardsdale receives an added property tax of five dollars per year to help maintain the building. But most of the remaining year the bookings are few and not enough to cover both operating cost and deferred maintenance. The VMB has always been financially fragile. The operating costs average $5,100 per month not including labor.
Today the building is suffering from an accumulation of deferred maintenance and is in need of various repairs. There is a leak in a doorway, broken railings and acoustic ceiling tiles that need replacing or repair.
The board is considering taking over its service needs and finding people willing to work setting up the chairs and the other tasks required. It may not be difficult to find part time workers today with unemployment so high. The Board has started taking bids on various jobs and is hoping that if the services are handled in house and they sever ties with the City there will be a financial savings to pay for the repairs and maintenance.
The decision to sever ties with the City must be done with a full quorum of the VMB Board which could take place next month. Then the City must be given a 180 day notice.