Last updated on 2014.03.05
I received a delegation from the community thrift store steering committee Thursday evening. After receiving my e-mail (the first and only one they said they had received as of Thursday at firstname.lastname@example.org), the committee sent Don Amert to my door to make the committee's case. Again, the committee isn't seeking public input; they're selling their plan. Nonetheless, Don left with a lot of input from my wife and me.
Among the many interesting points we discussed was Don's clarification of the financial picture. The committee needs $1.05 million to get the loan from the bank to clear the South Egan lot and build the new store. The committee wants $150,000 from the Madison City Commission, $150,000 from the Lake County Commission, and the rest, $750,000, from the LAIC, grants, and private donations.
The new thrift store building would be owned by the Madison Community Foundation. Madison's card-table Mafia formed this non-profit in 1998 to buy exercise equipment and subsidize memberships for low-income folks to the new Community Center (these guys do like using the word community; it's funny they don't openly engage the community, except to ask for our money, or allow themselves to be accountable to it). In 2002 the foundation raised about $100,000 to buy John Green his current downtown studio. According to the Lake County property tax database, the Madison Community Foundation still owns that building at 111 South Egan and pays $1513.64 in annual property tax on it.
According to the Madison Community Foundation's 2010 990 tax return, MCF had $425,000 in cash on hand. (They appear to value the Green studio at $62,000, after depreciation.) MCF's nine board members at the end of 2010 included thrift store steering committee members Jon Knuths, Jerry Johnson, and Clark Sinclair, as well as Mayor Gene Hexom. (The others listed on the 2010 990: Judy Payne, Ed Fiegen, DeLon Mork, Doug Knowlton, and Pat Prostrollo.)
The Madison Community Foundation has enough cash on hand to completely eliminate the need for the $300,000 subsidy they want to take from the city and county coffers. Heck, for $300,000, they could probably buy Clark Sinclair's existing Main Street building, pay the bills with the rent they charge Bulldog Media upstairs, use the basement for storage, and open the thrift store on the main floor within 30 days. Come on, Clark: make the sale!
Madison Community Foundation has the resources to make the community thrift store happen right now, with no debt, no delay, no risk for taxpayers, and immediate payback for the community. If the community thrift store is such a great idea, they should put their money where their mouth is and make it happen now.