Town will assume events oversight
By Natalie Johnson
The Winthrop Town Council and the Winthrop Auditorium Association (WAA) appear to have come to a mutually agreeable plan to move forward, after the association requested that the town take over management of the events center and community building.
The town owns the Winthrop Barn, but for many years it has been managed by the volunteer nonprofit auditorium association
In addition to restrictions from COVID-19, association president Rick Northcott said the responsibilities have outgrown the volunteers’ ability to cope.
“We’re at our wits’ end as far as the managing part,” Northcott said. “The model’s just outgrown itself. It’s a volunteer board that’s stressed out making it skate by.”
The council voted Wednesday (April 21) to begin the process of terminating the contract with the WAA for management of the barn, with the understanding that the city and WAA would continue to work together in some form in the future.
Mayor Sally Ranzau briefed the council on the expense of taking over management before the vote. The town already covers roughly $26,000 annually for maintenance, utilities and other costs, she said.Ranzau estimated that hiring a less-than-full-time barn manager would cost $36,000 a year in salary.
In order to move forward, the town and WAA will have to dissolve their contract, which specifies that in such a case, the association’s cash would be turned over to the town for management of the barn.
That was a sticking point earlier this month for Northcott, who noted the WAA has about $75,000 in funds left over from a $100,000 donation from the late Red McComb which the association planned to use for barn upgrades.
After the existing contract is terminated, the town plans to negotiate a new agreement of some kind with the association.
“The whole point of this is not to disband the Winthrop Auditorium Association,” Ranzau said.
Northcott noted that the WAA is a 501(c)4 nonprofit, rather than a 501(c)3, meaning, among other things, that donations are not tax deductible.
In the future, it would make more sense for the organization to become a 501(c)3, he said, and operate in a similar way to Twisp’s Friends of the Pool group, which raises funds to help manage that town-owned facility, but doesn’t have management duties at the pool, or the Friends of the Winthrop Library, which has a similar role with that organization.
Northcott noted that the barn is still getting inquiries about events, but that it is difficult to schedule events in advance due to changing regulations and guidelines.
“We’re getting calls from people who want to have meetings,” he said. “There are some things that could happen, it’s just we as a board don’t want to be the COVID police.”
Ranzau also said she believed the town had the obligation to make sure someone was managing the barn while it was using a portion of its 2% stadium and hotel/motel toward the facility. The town plans to advertise for the manager position in the near future.