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Letter to the Editor

 

Janice Brownson

10:41 am

Editor, The Independent

I am disturbed by the position of DUSI and the comments by the President of the Board and executive director made in the article about the Durand Union Station in The Independent on June 21.

I have been a life member of DUSI for 19 years, but was a member before I could afford a life membership. I have donated significant amounts of money to the organization over the many years, served twice on the Board of Directors, chaired committees, including railroad days and have been a vocal advocate to preserve and protect our railroad heritage.

In all of those years, I have found the City of Durand to be a willing partner interested in preserving the station for the people of this community and beyond. The city took on the liability in 1979 to purchase the building and secured the major ISTEA grants that helped to finish the renovation and preserve the station. Why does the present board at DUSI and executive director constantly imply that the city is not to be trusted, that DUSI should operate on a handshake with no accountability and appear astonished that the city would want a written agreement now that DUSI’s initial mission has changed?

First, the City of Durand has a right to direct what repairs are necessary to maintain and preserve the 110-year-old building that they own! DUSI continues to ignore this fact as well as the fact that DUSI was created by the city (yes by the City of Durand) in 1985 to help raise the funds and oversee the restoration of the station. While the initial restoration of the building was completed essentially in 2002, there is no question that the building requires constant maintenance and repair work that is expensive.

If DUSI no longer wants to be responsible for this maintenance and repair, then will the residents of the city take on the significant cost? Doesn’t the city owe it to the resident taxpayers to make an effort that the cost of maintenance of the building is not done at the expense of the city residents? What is DUSI’s new mission? Does anyone actually know? I don’t and I am a member of the organization! If it is to run a museum, archive and library only, should they not pay rent and be tenants of the building just like everyone else? If DUSI does not want to relinquish “control” over a city-owned building then a detailed agreement between the two parties outlining their responsibilities makes sense.

Second, I am glad to hear that DUSI raises enough money to maintain the organization and add employees. However, contrary to nonprofit best practices of transparency and DUSI bylaws, as a member, I have not been provided an annual financial statement. I have no idea how much of the money raised by DUSI goes to the maintenance and repair of the building, and to the improvement of the museum, archive and library or if the money is used to simply maintain the organization. I asked the question at the last annual meeting I attended and was told that members could ask questions but the Board will not answer. What?

Honestly, to whom is DUSI accountable? At this point, DUSI is not accountable to anyone. As a nonprofit with a membership base, the Board of Directors should be fully transparent to both the membership and the donors who receive tax benefits by donating. Because they occupy a city-owned building, they should be fully transparent with the city.

Last year I attended a City Council meeting on an issue not relating to the station, when Councilwoman Cobley complained that any organization doing business with the city should be fully transparent on financial matters, funding and strategic plans for the future, it was pointed out to her by another councilperson that DUSI had not provided that information to the city for many recent years. Wow!

I agree with the City of Durand, it is time that this on-going issue (seven years) be resolved and that we move on. Because of my strong belief in preservation, I want to know that the station is in good hands and plans are being made to make it self-sufficient and not so reliant on the community fundraisers. I am just surprised that taxpayers who live in the city usually so concerned about potential tax increases of any kind are not concerned at all as to who might be on the hook to pay for the substantial repairs to the station in the future. The parties should voice their difference of opinion without retaliation, and work to a solution.

Janice Brownson, Saginaw

Janice Brownson was last modified: June 29th, 2015 by Karen Elford