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.