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Gordon seeks volunteers to helm Good Neighbor Days

Town officials and former volunteers hashed out their concerns at a pair of meetings.

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The Gordon Good Neighbor Days logo.
Contributed / Joy Rogers
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GORDON — The fate of Gordon Good Neighbor Days 2023 hinges on volunteers.

Following back-to-back meetings Oct. 5 and Monday, Oct. 10, the town of Gordon is seeking them. A “Looking for Volunteers” meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Gordon Town Hall, 9709 E. Douglas County Road Y. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend.

The volunteers who put on the 2022 event resigned en masse in August. At the Oct. 5 meeting, many of the issues that led to their resignation were aired to a crowd of more than 30 people. They included a lack of clear financial records, the fact that funds raised go back to the town’s general fund instead of rolling over for future events, and a communication disconnect between town government and volunteers.

Financial matters

Former Gordon Good Neighbor Days Treasurer Joy Rogers said she has been asking for detailed financial information from previous years for months. Without it, the group can’t forecast accurately for future events. She also expressed concerns about a lack of itemization in the 2022 records she's received.

Gordon Good Neighbor Days left leaderless

Town Clerk Stephanie James and Treasurer Ree Ann Hoyt discussed how financial deposits are made, a process that each performs independently. Hoyt said when she collects money that has been put in the safe for deposit, she doesn’t know where it has come from. The questions being raised have opened her eyes to holes in the current way deposits are handled.

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“That actually has made me more aware of where we could get better at processes that involve money,” Hoyt said at the meeting.

Having someone sign every time they drop off money and photocopying checks were among the suggestions.

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A crowd gathers at the Gordon ballpark during Gordon Good Neighbor Days on Saturday, July 2.
Contributed / Joy Rogers

“I think the more transparent we can have it, the better,” said board member Craig Golembiewski.

Following the meetings, Rogers said she still had concerns.

“I am not comfortable continuing forward when we have not received clear and honest answers to the financial questions we have asked,” she said.

She was invited to set up a time to come look at the records available in the town office.

Fireworks misfire

One of the biggest communication issues for the 2022 event was the fireworks. With a crowd gathered to watch the fireworks on July 2, volunteers learned that the contract had been signed to host the show July 4. They dealt with the angry crowd and scrambled to set the venue back up two days later.

The amount spent on fireworks has decreased over the years, according to Rogers — from $20,000 in 2015 to $15,000 in 2021 and 2022. She asked how that reduction came about. The town can get the fireworks at a lower cost if they pay for them early, James said, which is what they’ve been doing. Hoyt described it as an unwritten “good old boy handshake agreement.”

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Both town board members and former committee members agreed that there should be more eyes on the fireworks contract in future.

Possible separation

One of the central themes discussed was the need to separate Gordon Good Neighbor Days finances from the town’s. Currently, the volunteers are a town committee, and any funds left over after the event go back into the town’s general fund. Town board President Tim Haakenson said he was as surprised as committee members when he learned that.

“I always thought it rolled over like everyone else,” he said. “It should have been looked at a long time ago.”

Golembiewski said similar events in the area, including Superior and Lake Nebagamon, are put on by nonprofit groups. Setting up a 501(c)3 nonprofit for Gordon Good Neighbor Days was suggested. It’s a route that has worked for the Northwoods Rifle Range, which was once a town department. It became a nonprofit in 2021 and has a lease agreement for control of the rifle range. At the Oct. 5 and 10 meetings, the sale of 3.2 acres of land to the group for a clubhouse was discussed.

However, the process to form a nonprofit requires a dedicated group of officers and can take months. Rifle range representatives urged Gordon Good Neighbor Days to start now if they wanted to have nonprofit status in time for the 2023 event. Rogers told the board that it also costs about $6,000 to set up.

“I can speak on behalf of our group and honestly say we are not in a place where we would be comfortable taking on the responsibility — or expenses — associated with creating the 501(c)3,” she said.

Rogers said there’s no reason the town couldn’t continue to run the event if they had a better system in place for money and contract management.

The current plan is to solicit a committee of volunteers to helm Gordon Good Neighbor Days for 2023 while exploring the possibility of forming a 501(c)3 nonprofit in the future.

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With nine months left to go, the clock is already ticking. Rogers and Pam Boettcher, who was on the committee for years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, told the board Monday that planning meetings for Gordon Good Neighbor Days generally start by the first week in January.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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