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Does Upper Milford Value the Arts?

Upper Milford votes tonight on small things that will make an even smaller impact on their $175,000 deficit.

As the day nears that votes on small things that will make an even smaller impact on their $175,000 deficit, it becomes more and more apparent that they have no value for the arts or the community service that something that takes place in the Municipal Center provides. Rob Sentner, an elected official replied last Thursday to Jay Lapp, a supporter of LLM, that we should raise the suggested door donation to cover the rent increase. Meanwhile there have been dozens of emails sent in from the area and from folks in Philadelphia and New York appealing to the deaf ears on which they seem to be falling. Members of the Upper Milford community at large should be made aware that in a penny wise and pound foolish way of thinking, the Board of Supervisors stands to lose a really great thing that is happening.

Good Day Upper Milford Board of Supervisors,
 
Before you vote on Thursday I would like to bring up some items for your consideration. I know that you have received quite a few emails from people in support of from both near and far, and there are several points I would like to call out.
 
The first thing is that this is more than a matter of raising our rent. When we first had discussions of doing this we were required to produce proof of our nonprofit status as well as insurance. We were under the impression that we were getting a special nonprofit rate. Everything that we have seen and heard lately leads us to believe that our rate is the same as everyone elses’ and I, personally, feel a bit misled about this. I would further point out that the township could take a nice bite out of the deficit if they increased the rental rates for non-residents. Most municipalities not only have separate for-profit and nonprofit rates, but also resident and non-resident rates. Often the non-resident rates are double the resident rates. If Upper Milford charged the groups coming frequently from New York and New Jersey $250 or even $300 I am sure the previous figure of $6900 (that was quoted as what the increase would provide to Upper Milford) would go up dramatically. I am suggesting to do this while keeping the rate for LLM at the current rate. Why do we deserve preferential treatment? Because we are providing a community service in which our doors are open to every single member of the community to come and participate. We are enriching the artistic landscape of the township. Many have said that we have put Upper Milford on the map. We bring in people from other communities to patronize our local businesses from gas stations and restaurants to mom and pop stores and bed and breakfasts. We are an asset to the community that provides many thousands of dollars worth of free advertising to the township annually. It is not just that you are considering raising our rent, it saddens me that you failed to appreciate what we do for the community and the township that you would even consider grouping us with the Zumba classes and private parties.
 
The organization that we modeled ourselves after, Music at the Mission, in New Jersey has paid the same $150/month (equaling $75/event) for the past 10 years because the church that houses them values what they provide to the community.
 
I heard a comment made by Rob Sentner at the meeting last Thursday that I find shocking, especially coming from an elected official. He suggested that LLM only had to raise our admittance fee .75 a person to make up the difference. So your suggestion, Mr. Sentner, is that we show the same disregard for the community as you are showing for the arts in the community by passing down the increase? Last I checked the economy is not getting any better. We have so many people in our community that have lost their jobs and have not been able to get new ones. I hear stories from musicians that come to our open mics that their unemployment has run out and they can’t get hired because of their age but are so glad to be able to come out to an affordable evening where they can play a few songs and catch up with friends, new and old, that they have made at LLM or that come to meet at LLM. We are trying to find ways to be able to not ask for a door donation at all, no less raise it.
 
Ami Lanning and I are both residents of Upper Milford and we are two of the founding members of LLM. I can’t express how betrayed I feel by our own elected Board of Supervisors that this would even come under consideration. We were not able to attend the meeting this past Thursday because we were at a conference in upstate New York where we were further promoting LLM, Zionsville and Upper Milford as a destination (we attended this conference on our own personal funds).  Another participant there who I had not previously met approached me and told me that she had come from her home in Maryland to see one of our shows earlier this year. She stayed two nights in a local hotel, she patronized four different area eateries, shopped in local stores and gassed up before leaving town. This is one person’s story out of hundreds that have attended our events over the last two years.
 
It is not a matter of the $550 of additional funds you would be looking for from us annually, it is a matter of you not recognizing that we are contributing so much more to the community than any rental amount could buy.
 
Lastly, I know that you are aware that we were already offered an alternate location to call home. I would ask that you think about the negative effects on Upper Milford should we choose to relocate.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dana November 16, 2011 at 05:24 PM
I feel the need to comment on this article because I do not beleive, when Mr. Sentner commented on your organization, that he felt in any negative way toward the Music Arts. He is not against it at all, he even stated as much adding the fact that you are a positive contribution to the community. The supervisors have been working their due diligence to balance a working budget in this tough economy. What I find so difficult to conceive is the mere fact that people give this no consideration and maybe even feel that other areas in the township should suffer because of their own selfishness. I am an Upper Milford citizen and I am 100% for our supervisors to make the best decisions possilble to make ends meet. What us outsiders do not see is the many difficult challenges they are dealt that base the decisions they make. Some will be happy and others will not but isn't that part of life? We pick up and move forward with understanding (I would hope). To me, you are a positive addition to our community but to throw somebody under the bus, as you have done above, for fighting to keep his township above water in every way he knows possible, is truly unfair. You were not at the meeting last week so maybe it is like whisper down the lane but you are wrong in your statement above saying that Mr. Sentner has disregard for the arts. That is not only judgemental on a 'whisper' but also on his character. I would be happy to pay a $25 increase to use that facility, pennies to your customers.
Robert Sentner November 16, 2011 at 05:38 PM
As a Supervisor my number one priority is balancing the budget and making decisions that I feel are for the benefit of the entire community not just the few even if they all would be from Upper Milford. 100 people seeing a concert when we have a population of 7000+ is the few. . As far as recomending that you raise your door rates .75 cents it was just a suggestion and things that have to happen in this kind of economic down turn. I also said that if you truly believe in something, I don't think there is a person out there that wouldn't pay an extra .75 cents if that is what they believe in. I race on the weekends and our non profit had the same problem and we passed a hat. I saw on your website that you have a large number of sponsers did you by chance ask any of them if they would mind helping out with the very slight increase? My question to you Val is, what do you think the priorities are of your elected officials ?? My priorities are Safety of the residents, roads, zoning. planning, parks, and township employees. Rob Sentner
Val Minett November 16, 2011 at 08:51 PM
I am pleased that the communication is finally flowing on this! Rob and Dana both have valid points. I would like to touch on a few (over a few posts). As a resident of this community, I too would love to see a balanced budget. This is why I was suggesting some other ways to raise good money in regards to the room rental. I would also propose that the Township look into applying for grants. Because LLM does operate in its building, this has opened the door to many grant possibilities that it did not have before. With 7000 members of the community I think any of us would be hard pressed to find a single activity that all are participating in. However with that $550 left to us to budget for advertising rather than additional rent, we could reach more of the community that would enjoy coming out for an evening. I would also like to note that although we have many repeats, it is not the same crowd of people at each of our events.
Val Minett November 16, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Rob, I also appreciate that your priority is the safety of the residents including roads etc. We have a beautiful & safe community because those priorities have always been in sight. Another important thing for the future of our community is enrichment in the Arts which the township does not have to look after because of organizations like Listen Live Music. We are also adding to the commerce of the area by bringing people in to it. This is saving the township money that it might otherwise have to spend down the road for a community music program and everything that goes with it (advertising, equipment, staff to run said equipment, talent etc.).
Val Minett November 16, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Dana- Mr. Sentner has been supportive of what LLM has been doing in that he always allowed LLM to post fliers in his place of business, which is why I was surprised at his suggestion. I, in no way, meant to throw anybody under a bus. I was merely communicating what was said. I also want to point out to you that Listen Live Music is a 100% volunteer nonprofit organization. It was only founded 2 years ago and with the costs of equipment and operating, is still not fully supporting itself. Some of the funds to run it still come out of mine and another founding member’s pocket. I am puzzled as to where your accusation of selfishness is coming from–we are providing a community service and are working daily to raise funds to enhance these activities. I would also like to add that many municipalities not only do not charge organizations such as ours, but also offer funding to them in the way of grants. We are not asking for either, we are merely asking that LLM’s current rate not be raised in light of what it does provide. I am speaking on these matters as a citizen of the township, but also as someone who has a vested interest in Listen Live Music.
Robert Sentner November 16, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Val, you are right I have supported LMM since the beginning and I also praised over and over last Thursday night what a great job everyone does. I really don't understand what the uproar is about is it the $25.00 increase. This is where the Supervisor role takes over the fellow resident role. Val I am sorry but for the facilty that you are renting, including the kitchen, the storing of supplies on Township premisis, the fact that you can come and go at any time you would like its an unbelievable bargain. factor in the amount of time you are there saturday's some sundays cleaning up etc. it literally figures out to I'll bet less than $10.00 an hour. that is a BARGAIN. there is no way you could rent anything close to the facilties you are currently using for that kind of money. Yes you are providing a much needed service for our community but the township tax payers shouldn't be responsible for subsidizing your efforts, sorry. At the current rate of 125.00 when you factor in electric, heat, A/C janitor cleaning ( yes you do take great care of the facilty but it still takes someone to do floor's no and then etc.) we are not making money nor should we. cont.
Robert Sentner November 16, 2011 at 10:00 PM
The other thing that I am having a problem with, and maybe I am totally wrong thinking this way, but. We have a banquet facilty almost directly across the street that we are now competing with, in my eyes that is wrong. Also the fact that we are taking possible rental income away from our Fire company's is not a good thing either. They depend on every cent they can get to operate every year. I may be wrong thinking this way and I am sure someone will tell me if I am...LOL. Furthermore Upper Milford cultural donations ceased this year because of the budget constraints. these are our friends and neighbors, direct residents of the township, tax payers. before we start subsidizing something that benefits more than our own we need to take care of our own. UMYA came to the township and gave up there annual donation because they knew the problems we were having trying to balance the budget, And I personally thank all that are involved in volunteering for that organization for our youths of the township. cont.
Val Minett November 16, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Note: we are not there on Sunday's cleaning up - we are done and out same day of event. I guess we have to agree to disagree on this one Rob.
Robert Sentner November 16, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Val you and Amy are passionate about what you are doing, just like I am passionate about racing, my neighbor is passionate about hunting, or gardening, or whatever anyone enjoys doing, I just ask that you don't criticize township Supervisor's for trying to do there job. If we were rolling in dough this wouldn't be an issue. If you would have been to the last meeting you would have seen how hard staff and the supervisor's have worked to make all this work without raising taxes.
Robert Sentner November 16, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Val my door is always open to you or any resident that needs to talk. might not always be what you want top hear but its always open.
Val Minett November 16, 2011 at 10:10 PM
By the fire hall and banquet facility- are you talking about competing with them when you rent the facility for private parties? I guess there are many on both sides of that argument as well, but that would be their fight and yes, I am sure you will be told if your thinking is wrong :-) All I am saying is with LLM there are opportunities for funding that the township did not have before that would more than pay for the heat/air lights, janitorial etc that you speak of. We are not looking for a free ride, by any means. Please feel free to capitalize on the value that we do bring. I think this is a missed opportunity.
Val Minett November 16, 2011 at 10:20 PM
I appreciate that Rob and don't mean to criticize. Budgets are the toughest challenge - I get that. Boy, do I ever get that on our shoestring budget as well- which is what brings out my passion. As easy as you think it should be for us to raise $550, in the grand scheme of things it might as well be the $175,000 that you face. And we face the same dilemma - raise the suggested door price(like you don't want to raise taxes). On a very small scale the same heart is behind what you are doing and what we are doing. I'm sorry that we could not be at the meeting last week. We will see you tomorrow night.
Robert Sentner November 16, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Val just a thought but have you ever thought about asking for donations when you hand your flyers out, I would gladly throw 25 bucks in now and then when you drop flyers off and I am sure others would do the same. and one last thing raising taxes to met the demands of the township is a little different than raising the door price, entry fee to a race, dues to the rod and gun club, belonging to a swim team, etc. all things that different people are passionate about, and please don't make the argument that music is better than someone's elses passion. there all important in that persons eyes.
Val Minett November 16, 2011 at 11:01 PM
I may just take you up on that! I have to admit that I am not good at asking anyone, even businesses, for donations - especially in this economy. A lot of the sponsors that we have listed on the site are "in kind" meaning it wasn't money they provided but a service- like radio stations doing PSA's for us, printing co's doing printing etc. I would never take the task of rating passions- I agree with you there that it comes down to each to their own - as it should. No argument here! And in all of this I don't want to leave out that, yes, the township has been most generous and we love "our" room. The sound and vibe are great and Dan and Cindy have been awesome and easy to do business with.
Robert Sentner November 16, 2011 at 11:07 PM
I wish all the residents of this township saw how hard the staff and workers of our township work and the passion they have for the job that they do. My hat goes off to each and everyone of them for all they do for ALL of us.
Lyle Richardson November 17, 2011 at 02:21 AM
Val, when doing a nonprofit you can't be afraid to ask for donations for a good cause, the worse thing that will happen is they will say no. If you have a problem asking for help then i suggest you find someone who will do this for you.
Jim Krippe November 17, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Rob I commend you on some of your statements and the only supervisor offering to forgo his $2500.00/yr pay, but your attempt to balance the budget lacks bite. Just think if the other 2 supervisors would forgo their pay this problem would be resolved. (Especially the one drawing a $53,000.00 + salary from the Twp) Your wanting to give the street workers a raise this year is a good gesture and if anyone deserves the money for the excellent work they do it's the street department, but if you follow the news teachers, firefighters, policemen and even the retired have had to give up pay increases for the past several years. It even meant the layoff of some of the previous mentioned professionals. Lean times require lean measures. If you check since 2009 you voted for a $5000.00 raise for the Twp manager, the secretary's pay increased from $35,896.58 to $50,000.00. You voted to create a new position of Public Works Director which increased the budget from $16,300.00 to $53,100.00. The increases total $56,137.72 over the 3 years span not including the $5000.00 one time for the Twp Manager. The increases used about 1/2 of the total property tax revenue per year. Therefore I think with a little hard thought the supervisors can satisfy the needs of some organizations, the library and balancing the budget. It may require temporary limits for staff members and reevaluating the Public Works Position. I usally attend Twp meetings , but a family commitment prevents it tonight.
Robert Sentner November 17, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Jim thanks for the kind words, and trust me I have sat on the other side of the fence, I have been the concerned citizen coming to supervisor meetings wondering why they do some of the things that they do. But I must admit after becoming a Supervisor I have seen how much your township personal do, and yes we could Monday morning quarterback this to death, but there is NO local government that runs as transperant and lean as yours and mine. What some of the residents don't understand is that state and federal requirements make local government very inefficent. Tons of ways to do things cheaper if it was operated like a business. We might not always agree with the comments that the core group of regulars offer, but I always listen and agree alot of the times. some corrections and added facts, The township manager went years without a raise and is worth every penny we pay him for the knowledge he has, I was not a Supervisor when the public works position was created, the township Secretary is 43,000. some intersting reading http://www.lehighvalleyhomeseller.com/millage_rates/LehighMllag012010.pdf
Jim Krippe November 17, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Rob the figures I presented were from the budget draft of 10/20/2011 which did show wages as far back as 2007. If the figures shown on the draft are incorrect then someone should have proof read it before it was distributed at the meeting. I do not wish to debate the knowledge of the Twp Manager everyone has their opinion. The large wage increase for the public works position was noted in the 2010 budget and you were a supervisor at that time. Finally I am quit aware of the tax millage of the different municipalities and what is supplied for the millage. One needs to live within the earnings and try to save for a rainy day. It this case the tax payers give you a salary and you should work with that and not waste it as with the shimerville road property. The house was there for years and vehicle accidents were minimal if any. The supervisors should try to set fees to match that of the use. Such as if someone or organization wants to use Twp property to gain financially for their own cause they should pay more (unless it is a non-profit organization) and if it is for amusement for Twp residents or anyone for that matter the fee should be less. Fees should also be set occording to what it cost the Twp to operate the area for the time of use and to cover the insuance cost. As for the library the cost should be set as per the request of the majority of tax payers wishes and a referendum would best show the majorities wants. Nice chatting with you have a nice day.
Robert Sentner November 17, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Jim I became a township supervisor in January of 2010, and the 2010 budget would have been adopted in Dec of 2009 so no I was not invovlved in the original hiring of the public works coordinator but I do think it is a needed position. and the figures in the copy of the budget you got were correct. and as you can see the township manager's wages were the same for 2007,2008, and 2009 I would have to check but I think even prior than 2006 they were the same.
Ronald Weaver November 19, 2011 at 01:40 PM
With very little effort a good cause can raise the extra money. The township is more than fair to the group and tax payers. The issue of how much people make in the township is a seperate issue. We should start running all governmental bodies like a business and spend according to what is received. I believe the township officials work hard to balance things out in the most reasonable way. Not always perfect but sometimes it comes down to the eyes of the beholders, every one has different views on things, common sense and understanding apart from self interests should prevail.

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