by Jeff Bernardis, Director
As most of you know by now, the Board has decided to withdraw its motion from last month seeking member approval of funding to build a new observatory to house a major donation that was being offered to us. A major part of the donation is a three meter aluminum dome, but it also includes a C14 SCT, a Paramount mount, and imaging equipment.
Before accepting the donation, we decided to make a plan for how we would utilize it, so for the past year or so, five or six dedicated members sought out quotes and approvals for a new observatory. That was the basis for the motion that we were to vote on last month, but the concerns raised at the last meeting brought me to the decision that we should convene a special Board meeting to discuss this matter and possibly amend our motion.
At that meeting, many non-board members voiced their concerns over the proposal. Some of the things we heard were:
- The C14 SCT is not the best OTA for imaging
- The planned observatory location would interfere with members bringing their own scopes, plus it would not have ideal horizons.
- The imaging equipment is possibly outdated; it is approximately 10 years old.
- Nobody really knows the state of the equipment. It’s been boxed up and sitting a storage facility for several years.
- Sinking so much money into a facility that would serve a minimal number of members and yet would only be usable on a handful of nights each year is not prudent. We shouldn’t be spending half of our treasury on a single project like this.
I am sure there are many more objections that I’m overlooking. The bottom line is that this is a difficult decision to make. It is, in fact, a decision to be made by the general membership, but it has to be presented to the members as a board recommendation, and I couldn’t, in good faith, recommend that we proceed with so many unknowns and concerns.
I think it was John Miller who suggested that we should simply accept the donation and take stock of what we have. We had been focusing so much on the idea of building the observatory that we lost sight of the fact that the donation came without conditions, and we were not obligated by our acceptance to proceed with construction.
So what we have before us is the following. I have contacted the donor and told him we will accept his donation. He was pleased to hear it. In the next few weeks, we will be traveling down to Medford to pick it up. John Giles has kindly offered to store the dome. John Miller has offered to have the OTA bench tested. We still need to figure out how we will test the mount, and somebody needs to evaluate the imaging equipment.
The decision was NOT made to kill the observatory. That decision has been deferred, and we will face it again, probably in the next few months. We need to keep talking about this in the meetings. As Director, I feel the weight of being a fiduciary for your money. How you feel about expenditures, particularly of this magnitude, is very important to me. Let me know how you feel, both pro and con, so that when the time comes to evaluate this again, we won’t have as many surprises as we had at the last meeting.