SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes
August 17, 2022
In attendance: Directors Al DiSabatino, Kevin Kane, Bob Dodge, Maame Andoh, Kerry Kertes, Russ Pinizzotto, Howie Marshall and Rob Burgess. Also joining the meeting were members Jon Wallace and Jack Gelfand. A quorum was present.
The minutes of the July 20, 2022 meeting were approved.
Follow-Up on Action Items:
Rob reported that much has been accomplished in the last month on Actions Items. Kevin now has the requisite permissions to field all inquiries to the club and steer them to the appropriate director. Kevin has established a YouTube channel for the club and installed a link on our webpage so that members can now access recorded versions of our club meetings. Ara provided training to both Maame and Kevin on editing the webpage and updating of the page is occurring with new tabs, posting minutes, etc. A speaker suggested by Kerry has been contacted and he will be our September 1 speaker, and two other speakers for October and December have been secured, nearly completing our fall line-up. Discussions continue on revising our on-boarding process of new members to encourage signing up for both the Night Sky Network and Google Groups. Amendments to bylaws are now in circulation for consideration. Publicity for club events is succeeding. Thanks to Kevin, Maame and Ara for all this progress.
Debrief on August 13 Neptune Dr star party: The star party drew about 10 members and at least 40 individuals who came due to our newspaper publicity. It was a mottled sky with clouds and occasional breaks to allow viewing of some objects, but laser-pointer tours of constellations were hampered. Jon Wallace gave a great presentation on meteors and meteor showers outside on the deck. Jon indicated he is now ready to hand off the organizing responsibilities for future star parties, which will now fall to a subcommittee of our Outreach Committee. The following improvements were suggested:
1) Man the welcome table full time so that guests are greeted as they arrive and are given information about the club and that evening’s program. Two volunteers are needed so that each can take a break and enjoy some of the evening’s program.
2) Kevin created a QR code that guests can scan giving them a detailed program for the evening with objects to be seen and short explanations, saving printing costs and waste.
3) The speaker needs at least one assigned volunteer to help with set up and tear down after the meeting.
4) Provide the speaker’s presentation as the first event of the evening and only once. A repeat of the program generally draws very few on the second offering.
5) Scope operators need to be secured in advance for the event and provided with the handout materials so that guests can rotate through the scopes and see a wider variety of objects.
6) Refreshments will need to be assigned to another volunteer.
Next star parties are September 10, October 12 and November 8.
The Program Committee is building out the fall line up with the following speakers:
September 1: Gary Golnik, retired NANS/JWST optical design engineer
October 6: Tara Roberts Zabriskie, filmmaker and director of “Defending the Dark” on the effects of light pollution.
November 3: TBD (possibly Haystack Radio Observatory)
December 1: Greg Shanos, “Mars 2022 – An Observer’s Guide”
Russ and Maame will follow up with other possible sources including: surveying other area clubs for speakers they’ve had, or their own members, who might be willing to present; the new Bowdoin Astronomy professor; other university faculty in New England including from UNH recommended by Howie; Libby Bischoff from the Osher Map Library at USM discussing their extensive collection of early astronomical charts; a Curiosity Mars Rover engineer recommended by Kerry; Aileen Yingst (presented two prior times on Curiosity and on Vesta) and Elizabeth McGrath (Colby) on early images from JWST.
Discussion ensued about whether to offer the usual January program on astronomy basics and equipment. It was noted that attendance was not that robust and did not include a lot of the intended audience, ending up rehashing what many in the audience mostly knew. Bob pointed out that most new members want help with their specific equipment. It was agreed that the club should offer a workshop, at some central location, where new members (and others?) could bring equipment for hands-on help, perhaps to be held late afternoon so people could then go outdoors and try out what they learned. ACTION ITEM: Program Committee to report back on suggestions as to when, where and how to offer such an event (perhaps in concert with a community rec center as a joint venture??)
• It was agreed to support the following events:
o Neptune Dr. Star Parties for September, October and November. ACTION ITEM: Rob and Kerry to determine how to best manage these organizationally and seek a volunteer administrator for our Neptune Drive star parties on an ongoing basis. In the short term they will manage recruitment for remaining star party dates.
o Cumberland Library Star Party Thursday, August 25 (Greg Thorup to coordinate)
o Maine’s First Ship – Nautical themed event for Saturday, Sept 24 in Bath
o Maine Coast Heritage Trust – Woodward Point (Brunswick) star party – tentative date 10/29
• Under consideration for support by the club:
o Brunswick Downtown Ass’n Community Fair Saturday, Sept 10 (Rob and Ron have committed to set up a table and our solar scope to promote the club)
o Kennebec Estuary Land Trust – star party to follow their Annual Meeting – date and place TBD
o BDA Fundraising Auction item – possible star party for group or business at Neptune Drive; Auction date is Oct 20
o Family Fun Day in Cape Elizabeth at end of school year 2023 (Kerry to liaise – huge potential audience)
• There was discussion about an initiative to one or two local schools for this fall, and whether we could support that. Two items were suggested: 1) offer solar viewing at a school, to be done in conjunction with a particular teacher but available to the whole school. Kerry has experience running these at Cape Elizabeth HS and can help organize at Scarborough HS; 2) creating a 3-minute video with space pictures and activity pictures of SMA to be run at local schools. Russ noted that the Astronomical League has an attractive certificate program for children’s “First View through a Telescope” that we could use. ACTION ITEM: Kerry will try to obtain a sample video from the school librarian that could guide us in developing our own. Russ has several videos with content that could be used. Russ, Kevin and Kerry will work on this and report back.
Dark Sky Committee:
Rob reported that the Dark Sky observing site list is only partially done. A short list will be developed for now that can be posted on our website and supplemented as new sites are suggested. ACTION ITEM: Dark Sky Committee to complete project with a short list of publicly-accessible dark sky sites throughout the SMA footprint. Rob also reported that efforts continue with the MRRA Utility Director to have a “house-side shield” installed on the streetlight at Neptune Drive. Dwight Lanpher helped with this by sending a letter as a professional lighting engineer explaining what we are seeking. MRRA’s initial response was No, claiming such a shield would “endanger public safety.” Finally, Rob will work with MCHPP at Neptune Drive to turn off its loading bay light at night to make the space behind the building darker for observing.
• Al reported that the club now has 86 members, an all-time high! Three more members have joined since our July board meeting and one old member renewed. Considering that we lost about 12-15 members with non-renewals this growth is all the more remarakable. The challenge will be to keep them.
• Efforts continue on revising the on-boarding process of new members, particularly to encourage them to sign up for GG and NSN. ACTION ITEM: Al, Kevin and Rob to review current communications and revise as necessary and redesign the “Become a Member” page graphically to enable signing up for GG. Report back at September meeting.
• Al will now report all new members to the AL on a quarterly basis so that there is not undue delay in new members receiving the Reflector. As part of the on-boarding process Rob would like to discuss the default to digital subscriptions versus paper.
• 11th Director: Rob reported that he had extended an invitation to a member to consider joining the board and was awaiting a response.
• Club Apparel – There was renewed discussion about if we could offer that opportunity again to members. Bob stated that the last time through was very labor intensive, particularly if ordered items were no longer available in the color or size, requiring constant follow up with the member to choose something else and then reporting back to LL Bean. The program is only available through a paper catalog so on-line selection is not available. Tardiness to respond to Bob’s questions by members also consumed a lot of time. ACTION ITEM: Bob will review the current state of the LLBean program and report back. He will look into providing a small limited selection of perhaps hats and fleeces to reduce the variables. He might also consider other purveyors of logoed apparel such as Vista Print or others. .
• Rob reported that dew ring heaters for the corrector plates of each scope are on backorder. He contacted HighPoint for an update and might cancel and order through Amazon that apparently has them.
• The mishap with the EAA scope was discussed. It was agreed to place a sign on the scope stating that removal and storage was a two-person operation. The scope will also be secured to the dolly with bungees or other devises that can hold it more securely. Ara will also examine the scope for any damage to the optical train or other components.
• The sale of the Questar was also not discussed as Ara could not attend the meeting.
Treasurer’s Report/Finance Committee:
Bob reported $13,481, with no change from last month. New membership dues await transfer to our account from PayPal.
After discussion at the last meeting Rob reported on proposed changes:
1. No special membership status for those over 90
2. Proration of membership dues not possible due to payment processor. Membership chair to be granted discretion to allow those joining after July 1 to have their memberships include the following calendar year
3. “Student membership” to include any full-time student at any level
4. miscellaneous grammatical corrections.
Bob and Al raised the question of Supporting Memberships that were only available to corporations and organizations when in fact, several members submit the $100 dues for Supporting membership status now. The club has treated those as an Individual membership with a $65 donation. So as to continue to have that option and to not discourage individuals from making a $100 payment some modest change in the definition is needed. Rob offered to rewrite and suggest the following:
3.1 d. Supporting – Any corporation, organization or individual that has paid the Supporting Membership rate.
While the club regards the amount over $35 to be a donation, whether to so treat it that way is a choice of the member when they pay their taxes. We do not need the bylaws to include tax advice.
Notice will now be given to the membership of these proposed changes at least 14 days before the next Directors’ meeting and we can then vote them in or out at the next meeting.
The meeting concluded about 8:40 p.m.
Next Directors’ Meetings for the year (all on Wednesdays at 7p.m. via Zoom):