Nonprofits make pitch for funding

October 22, 2008

By Staff

Much of the credit for Issaquah’s high quality of life must go to the volunteer and nonprofit groups who work all year toward that goal. But they can’t do it without a little help from the city.

Each year, Issaquah provides grant funding to seven nonprofits, from which representatives appear before the City Council to make their requests while also providing summaries of their activities during the preceding 12 months.

FISH

On Oct. 16, Gestin Suttle, executive director of the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, was first in line. She asked for a grant of  $25,000 for 2009, up from $22,000 for 2008.

Those monies support a plethora of educational programs at the hatchery and in school presentations in King County. The organization also recruits and trains volunteer guides and docents, conducts tours and maintains an active communications program.

Senior center

Following FISH was the Issaquah Senior Center, for which Carmen Llewellyn and Executive Director Jan Koriath requested $81,000. This equals last year’s request of $78,700, plus a cost of living adjustment.

Llewellyn said 2008 was a year of growth in member participation and programs, including the launch of a new Web site; fitness programs; outreach to homebound seniors; musical events; workshops for health, nutrition and financial planning; and a computer lab.

More are planned for 2009, Llewellyn said. Programs will be added while the center will push to generate more revenue from venue rentals and foot care services.

But the picture is clouded somewhat by an expected reduction in support from King County. Koriath said she does not expect the county, which is struggling with a $90 million budget deficit, to provide as much as it did last year — $39,500.

“It seems like we will get some funding, maybe a 50 percent cut,” she said.

It is hoped that increased revenues can make up for half of the difference.

Councilman John Rittenhouse asked whether Koriath has a contingency plan in the event of a budget shortfall, to which she replied that she might have to postpone new programs or even make cuts in existing ones.

DownTown Issaquah Association

Following Koriath, a delegation from the DownTown Issaquah Association stepped up to request $35,000, the same as last year. Citing a long list of 2008 accomplishments, from organizational improvements to new cultural events, President Lauree Naval outlined goals for 2009 plus challenges to overcome.

One of the latter concerns the Hailstone Feed Store, the historic Shell gas station on Front Street. Just a short list of tasks remains to complete its prize-winning restoration, but now comes the problem of how best to make use of the building.

One idea was to establish a gift shop run by nonprofits, but that has proved unworkable. Now, the most popular proposal is to use the building as office and meeting space for those groups instead.

Otherwise, the association wants to continue working toward establishing downtown Issaquah as a destination for the arts and nightlife. Incoming president Keith Watts said the group would focus on issues like garbage, parking and park improvements while improving communications and relationships with partners.

“We want to be a positive voice in the city, working with these issues,” he said.

Issaquah History Museums

Next in line was Erica Maniez, director of the Issaquah History Museums. Her request is for $84,000 to pay the salaries of part-time staff.

Maniez said the organization has seen a steady increase in numbers of visitors to its two primary facilities, the train depot and Gilman Town Hall. Her goals for 2009 are to perform maintenance and install security lighting at the depot while completing a collections inventory and transcription of its oral history project.

Another important goal is to start discussions with the city regarding an entirely new museum. Maniez said the Auto Freight Building, at First Avenue Southeast and Southeast Bush Street, is dilapidated and at the end of its usefulness as a warehouse for collections.

Already, Maniez has submitted a proposal to Mayor Ava Frisinger, suggesting a real estate swap, but nothing has occurred beyond that. Councilman David Kappler, however, asked City Administrator Leon Kos to prepare a briefing on the issue for a future executive session.

Village Theatre

Village Theatre had a somewhat unusual request this year. Diane Wright, finance director, said in 2006 the city pledged $100,000 to be paid over five years in installments of $20,000, but somehow the 2007 invoice was not processed and the payment was not received. She asked that the payments for 2007 and 2009 be combined in one for $40,000, which council members indicated would be possible.

Apart from that issue, Wright said the theater is progressing on its four-part, long-range strategic plan. The first part, to build a new scene shop, was accomplished in 2007. Next on the list is to rebuild the First Stage theater, then retire mortgages and establish an endowment. So far, fundraising has brought in $1.5 million of the $3 million needed for the First Stage project, said President Derek Watanabe.

AtWork!

Last to speak was Chris Brandt, CEO of AtWork!, the workshop that trains persons with disabilities to work with outside employers. Like other nonprofits, AtWork! is diversifying its moneymaking enterprises to make them more sustainable and independent.

Brandt asked for $20,000 to support operations and the planned business expansion.

Though she had waited patiently while all the other speakers made their own pleas for support, Brandt brought smiles to the faces of the City Council with her spirited presentation.

“It is a shame that the others who were waiting could not see your enthusiasm and passion,” said Councilman Fred Butler. “We saw it last year, and it just keeps getting better.”

Last year, Brandt had requested funds primarily to remodel decrepit and unpleasant bathrooms in her facility. That has been accomplished.

“The new bathrooms are really nice,” she said.

Historically, the nonprofit groups have received most or all of the money they have requested. The actual amounts are determined during the council’s deliberations, and are official when the final budget is adopted in December.

Other nonprofit agencies make grant requests directly to the Human Services Commission. The commission then makes recommendations on who should get the $111,000 designated for human services in the mayor’s budget. The city generally sets aside 1 percent of its budget for human services.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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