Memo may shed light on money
Did city of Winchester release SAAA from $250,000 pledge?
By Vic Bradshaw
The Winchester Star
December 26, 2009
Winchester — City officials provided and executed a document that may have released a local nonprofit agency from a $250,000 donation pledge.
The document, a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, lists a $550 monthly fee for utility expenses as the agency’s only financial obligation for use of the Active Living and Recreation Center.
2009 Board of Directors
John Hudson, Berryville
Anthony Roper, Berryville
Cheryl Swartz, Winchester
John Graves, Luray
Bruce Arnold, Shenandoah
Fred Hughes, Woodstock
Shelby DePriest, Fort Valley
Ann Crim, Front Royal
Violet Carter, Front Royal
Rebecca Allen, Winchester
Lois Wismer, Winchester
Teresa Strohmeyer, Clear Brook
Walter Quinn, Stephens City
Don H. Shirley, Stephenson
Kenneth Alger III, Stanley
Mary T. Price, Strasburg
Ronald King, Strasburg
Robert Kendall, Winchester
The agency’s $250,000 pledge toward construction of the center is not mentioned in the agreement, which was filed as an exhibit in SAAA’s response to the $500,000 lawsuit the city filed against it on Dec. 3.
“Any prior verbal agreement or other written agreement that is not expressly incorporated into this document is hereby declared null and void,” the agreement states.
It was signed by Helen Cockrell, SAAA’s president and CEO, on Jan. 12, and by J. Brannon Godfrey, then Winchester’s city manager, on Jan. 30.
City offices were closed for the holidays Thursday and Friday, and officials could not be reached for comment.
The filing confirms that the dispute arose when Winchester said the agency would have to pay fees to use the center. The response states that SAAA “clearly believed” that the $250,000 payment up front would be its only financial obligation for the center’s use.
An earlier, unexecuted memorandum of understanding for the project that was submitted as an exhibit, contains no mention of money to be paid by SAAA — except the donation.
The agency’s board of directors rejected a Nov. 18, 2008, agreement that would have required SAAA to pay $550 monthly rent and honor its $250,000 construction contribution pledge, the response states.
But after the city claimed it could not accept the contribution without jeopardizing the tax-free status of construction bonds for the center, it produced an agreement that dropped all references to the construction pledge.
That document was signed by Cockrell and Godfrey.
The lawsuit states that on May 6, city officials told the agency they had determined a way to use the $250,000 without jeopardizing the tax issue on the bonds. SAAA told the city it could turn over $40,000 it has in a building fund, but $100,000 in federal funds secured for the project no longer were available.
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The perception is that SAAA is in the right after reading this article and makes you wonder, did this situation led to the former City Manager's premature departure?