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SMA Board Minutes - Nov. 14, 2020

Minutes from Directors' Meeting

· Board Minutes

Southern Maine Astronomers

Board of Directors

Meeting: 11-14-2020

1000 - 1200

Attending: Directors Rob Burgess, Rowan Goebel-Bain, Robert Dodge, Scott Lovejoy, Forrest Sumner, Al DiSabatino, James Shields, Ara Jerahian, , and George Bokinsky and Guest Russ Pinizzotto.

Announcements: Comet in Orion near Bellatrix. Orion is on horizon at 2230 hours. A comet website was mentioned but could not be confirmed.

Ara Jerahian reported obtaining an all-sky camera and is assembling a mount for its use.

Committee Reports:

Program Committee:

The pandemic course indicates that continued events will be virtual for the foreseen future. Speakers have been scheduled through May, 2021. Short biographies of astronomers and those contributing to the science have been well-received with recommendations that this continue at monthly meetings. RP and GB will coordinate this process. (Joan Feynman died on July 22, 2020 at 93 was mentioned as a worthy candidate.)

Publicity for future meetings was also discussed with a request that the Outreach Committee develop a list of media outlets, such as The Forecaster, for notification of club events. It was noted that the publication date of the Forecaster (Thursday) had interfered with the Club’s ability to get timely notice of its meetings on Thursday. Nevertheless, other outlets were suggested and the Committee was asked to develop a list of them, and area clubs, for email notification.

Outreach Committee:

JS described a recent “safe-and sane” attempt at having a group star party with appropriate measures for the safety of those attending only to be frustrated by clouds. The rescheduled event brought out only one couple and further frustration by the return of clouds. An opportunity to demonstrate types of telescopes was not wasted however. Cornerstones of Science were the hosts for this event with RB and JS in support.

Equipment Committee:

Interest in the sale of the 16” Meade Newtonian telescope was discussed regarding asking price and realistic sale price. Sale prices in range of 25-35% of price for new telescopes of that type is regarded as realistic. RB mentioned that donors can be notified that any donations to SMA are tax deductible through our §501 ((c)(3) designation. RB renewed his membership on and found a party in Middletown, NY looking for a 16” scope matching our scope. Contact has been made with the possible buyer and a response is awaited.

Action Item: A motion was made, seconded and approved to allow the committee members involved in this process to go forward without a separate board approval of the price.

Membership Committee:

RD and AD discussed important issues of assuming responsibilities of the Treasurer Ron Thompson regarding membership renewals and mode of payment going forward. The Treasures will continue to receive payment of dues that may be in the form of a check for the near future but the goal would be to have most dues collected electronically this year through the new website, powered by Strikingly/Stripe.. AJ provided a demonstration of how dues would be renewed, using the “shopping cart” model most websites now use. (See below.)

Action Item: The board reaffirmed the due for 2021 will continue to be $35.00.

Committee Task Prioritization:

A copy of committee tasks, developed by Al Disabatino from prior discussions, bylaws and an article in the Reflector magazine on astronomy club administration, was briefly discussed. The latest version of the worksheet was circulated with the agenda. Committee members were asked to review their substantive areas and edit the list by deleting non-relevant items, and updating, as required.

Website Development:

AJ describe the process of moving SMA domain to a new site and how this change will allow SMA to attract new members as well as enabling new members to join and current members to renew. The cost of the transaction will likely be less than the postage, envelopes, etc that are currently the rule. The transaction fee for either PayPal or Stripe is about 1.5%. A members-only section was described as well as editing functions. As designed, the site would allow all committee members to edit those sections of the website that pertain to their committee. For example, the Program Committee could update upcoming meetings; the Outreach Committee upcoming star parties or other events. The members-only section would include items such as bylaws, directors’ meeting minutes, equipment ownership information, and the like. Also included in the general site would be a Gallery of members’ astro images.

Discussion ensued on the shutting down of Yahoo Groups as our club chat medium. “Disqus”forum was considered as a tool that could work through the website but which would require more sign-in tasks as a prerequisite to use, which would be cumbersome. The club will explore a Google Groups option that appears to operate much like Yahoo Groups. It would operate outside of the website but appears much easier to use.

Volunteers for the website implementation committee include: Ara Jerahian, Robert Dodge, Robert Burgess, and James Shields. RP will transfer files to the members-only section regarding his series on the constellations.

Brunswick Landing update:

The ongoing process regarding location of certain SMA functions to Brunswick Landing was led by RB with notice that the primary tenant “Teens to Trails” has begun operations at the site. Details regarding SMA’s shared use were to be negotiated by Alicia Heyburn, Ex Dir of Teens, and Rob Burgess. SMA would not be liable under the Teens lease to the landlord. Shared use of the space would include signage, a display area for SMA materials, astrophotos, posters, etc., a key, limited photocopying, wifi access, limited office hours, mail kiosk, and other use of the building for small (12-15 person) meetings (when such are possible again), bathrooms and kitchen facilities, storage shed and outside use of the field, parking lot, and deck for star party functions. SMA’s rent would be $150/month

Teens to Trails has obtained a donation of materials to build a shed from Hancock Lumber with labor to be provided by the “teens” and any SMA volunteers willing to help. The location and size of the shed were discussed and two separate locked entrances would allow Teens to Trails and SMA to securely store equipment for use on site and as part of the club’s telescope lending program. Sky meter reading are “not too bad,” achieving 21.5 SQM per Russ Pinozzotto’s recent measurement with the Milky Way clearly visible. Exterior wall packs on the building and parking lot lights in the adjacent parking lot can be turned off.

RB presented an estimated capital expenditure need of $1,775 for full operations. This included $800 for JMI dolleys for two telescopes, two additional Revolution imagers (or equivalent) for electronically assisted astronomy (EAA) for COVID-era star parties, signage and key expense for the building and mail kiosk. Based on 40 members at $35 each, Rob estimated that with the new rent and other operating expenses of the club for insurance, honoraria, refreshments for meetings, Astronomical League dues per member, website charges and other miscellaneous expenses, the club could run as much as a $2,670 annual deficit. This can be reduced by tight expense management and some form of formal revenue raising activities that could include grants, traditional fundraising, charging for star parties, equipment sales, increases in membership, etc. Rob presented a list of possible sources of revenue based on organizations and activities proximate to Brunswick as examples. He urged the Board to consider similar sources, affiliations and ideas throughout our footprint to support the club.

A Finance committee subcommittee of Rob Burgess, Ron Thompson, Russell Pinizzotto, and Robert Dodge will explore revenue-raising options to address the financial needs of the club going forward. The notion of developing an endowment for the club was discussed and some of the prerequisites necessary to such an undertaking. The subcommittee will commence its work and report back to the Board periodically. Quick action is needed if any solicitation is going to be made to club members at dues renewal. Two members have already pledged a total of $1500 towards a fundraising goal.

Action Item: A motion was made and seconded then approved with one abstention to go forward with the formal location to 179 Neptune Drive, Brunswick..

George Bokinsky, Secretary