SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes
20 March 2021, 1000 hrs
Attending: President Rob Burgess, Vice President Forrest Sumner, Treasurer Ron Thompson,
Bob Dodge, Russell Pinizzotto, Paul Howell, Ara Jarahian, Rowan Goebel-Bain, James Shields,
Al DiSabatino, Kerry Kertes, and George Bokinsky, Secretary.
by Rob Burgess, seconded by Forrest Sumner.
New Business: Rob Burgess had provided prior to this meeting an Annual Report for 2020
describing activities by the SMA and accomplishments of individual members over the last year
that had been accomplished despite the restrictions to gatherings required due to the pandemic.
The need for virtual meetings via Zoom allowed the SMA outreach to expand to those attending
throughout the State and beyond plus bringing in speakers beyond our immediate environs.
These activities plus the commitment to a shared space with Teens to Trails at Brunswick
Landing and the desire to seek outside foundation support for the club prompted a
reconsideration of the SMA mission statement and level of activity in the club. Directors
supported the changes and committed to meet the new level of activity required to fulfill the
revised mission. The Board also committed to grow the membership attracting younger
members, and develop effective communications in an evolving digital world.
The new mailing address of SMA is now 179 Neptune Drive, Suite 300, Brunswick, ME 04011.
These items were discussed leading to discussion of membership and a report of the
Membership Committee: Bob Dodge and Al DiSabatino. The SMA membership is currently 48,
the most in “some time.” Forrest Sumner mentioned the goal of attracting younger age groups to
join SMA. Opportunities nearby include Teens-to-Trails sharing same address, the Civil Air
Patrol youth contingent also near the SMA Brunswick Landing site, Boy and Girl Scout
programs through James Shields connections, local high schools through initiation a telescope
lending program similar to that of Cornerstones of Science, and summer camps which may be
conducive to group night sky learning programs. Rowan Goebel-Bain mentioned that the youth
have migrated to Instagram as preferred means of social communication.
Questions unanswered include astronomy clubs at local colleges and universities. Kerry Kertes
mentioned Cape Elizabeth High School star parties in the past, the new concept of “learning
commons” replacing school libraries, along with other ideas.
Paul Howell described videos to interest engineering-minded students. Rowan Goebel-Bain
described how photography interests allowed him to combine a friend’s photographic skills with
his astronomy skills to the enjoyment and benefit of both parties. This is another approach to
bringing the younger generation into astronomy.
With Bob Dodge offering to serve as Treasurer, Al DiSabitino will assume the chair of the
Membership Committee. Between them they will coordinate responsibility for communicating
membership changes to the Astronomical League and Night sky Network.
Equipment Committee: These developing themes led to connected discussions including “eye-
piece free” (electronically-assisted) astronomy (EAA) to allow distanced night sky viewing in
fulfillment of the Club’s recent grant award from the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation. Club
members have been invited a new subcommittee of Ara Jerahian, Russ Pinizzotto, James
Shields, Roy Patrice and Rob Burgess to implement the grant funding with equipment
purchases and program development. It was reported that a consequence of COVID-19 has
been a surge in astronomy equipment purchases such that many items are back-ordered which
could affect when the Club’s new effort will be launched. Ara offered to provide a hands-on
demonstration at his observatory in Cape Elizabeth to showcase how the Club’s system would
work. There was debate over whether the Club should consider alternative telescopes, such as
the Stellina or Unistellar, that have recently become available, versus the equipment purchases
identified in the grant. The new entrants offer tremendous ease of use with the ability to send
images to cell phones of a limited number of attendees present at the event. The Club decided
to stay with the equipment purchases identified in the grant, not only to be true to the grantor but
also because the equipment has value for teaching club members about astrophotography for
which there is considerable interest. The Club will pursue funding from new sources for the
coming generations of Stellina or Unistellar instruments.
The Committee reviewed a list of newly donated equipment and a wish list of other accessories
needed to enhance use of the Club’s equipment, as part of the equipment lending program as
well as at Brunswick Landing. Because of size, SMA’s larger scopes will likely only be used on-
site there. Work is needed at the shed to build out the interior for maximum storage potential.
Program Committee: Fellow members of the Board of Directors congratulate Rowan Goebel-
Bain on his Dartmouth College acceptance of admission application to the Astronomy and
Physics Program. The committee has plans for meetings through June, 2021 but raised
questions whether summer programs should yield to actual member stargazing events? When,
if ever will meetings return to the usual location at USM? Will the club be recruiting speakers for
on-site rather than Zoom presentations? What type of honoraria or recognition should the club
offer outside speakers? Should SMA members be providing more of the content of monthly
meetings supporting Russ Pinizzotto’s efforts that are greatly appreciated? In that regard Paul
Howell offered to reprise a prior talk he gave early in the club’s history then titled “From Aristotle
to Einstein” to be renamed “From Aristotle to Vera Rubin.” The continued uncertainty due to the
pandemic and policies of USM may determine some of these options.
Outreach Committee: The status of SMA posters was briefly discussed. Ara Jarahian will be
placing an electronic version of the poster on the SMA website for use in other promotional
efforts by the club. James Shields indicated that a local media list was largely complete for
promoting club activities.
Action Items: Upon motion, and seconded, the Board approved the following actions:
Authorized the Fundraising Subcommittee to pursue any and all grant funding from foundations
that it determined were philosophically and programmatically aligned with SMA’s goals to
achieve a stronger financial footing to support club operations, acquire necessary equipment
for club activities, and establish an endowment to support the club’s activities over the long
Amended the Bylaws consistent with the Notice to Members of the proposed changes, namely,
to restate the Purposes of the Club to more accurately reflect club history and mission, including
a formal acknowledgement of the Club’s commitment to preserving dark skies; and to eliminate
a scrivener’s error in eliminating a duplicate word in the text.
Approved a recommendation to establish a new banking relationship with Bangor Savings Bank,
not only for convenience of administration but also in recognition and gratitude for the Bank’s
charitable foundation’s support of SMA, and to close the existing account at People’s United
Bank. The two new signatories on the account will be Bob Dodge, as Treasurer and Rob
Burgess, as President. Once established, Ara Jerahian will repoint our website payment
intermediary to the new account.
Rejected two proposals to join with outside organizations seeking to grow their client bases by
offering donations to SMA based on the Club’s promotion of their business ventures to SMA
Agreed to a monthly Board meeting schedule for the immediate term based on the number of
activities currently underway at the Club. A new meeting schedule will be circulated by Rob and
posted on the club website.