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The Roeder Home needs volunteers

By On

Wednesday evening marked the last scheduled concert of the Whatcom County Homemade Music Society (HMS), a group that has held concerts at the Roeder Home for more than 30 years. Flip Breskin, who has helped coordinate the concerts, said in an email, “I just got home from the final Roeder Home concert. It was beautiful. And surprisingly full in spite of the snow…It was a good run, over 30 years. A lot of beautiful music soaked into those old walls.”

The continued use by HMS and many other cultural groups is in question. Future use of the home has been under discussion by the Roeder Home Task Force since January. Its recommendations will be forwarded to County Executive Pete Kremen by the end of March.

Precipitating this change, the county cut $157,000 from the 2009 parks budget that had been used for program coordination and support of the many cultural events hosted at the Roeder Home. Along with that change, many groups such as the HMS were asked to pay increased fees for rental of the space. The fee for the HMS went from $40 for an evening to $180. Many former users of the home consider the new fees to be out of their reach, and feel the increase has effectively closed the home to their use.

At the prompting of Breskin and many others concerned about the future of the Roeder Home, Kremen appointed a task force to find ways for the Roeder Home programs to continue in some form. As a possible solution, the task force consensus currently under discussion would have future use of the home coordinated by an existing or yet-to-be formed non-profit group or a consortium of them. The coordinating group would be allowed to keep income from events and rentals and put them toward their expenses.

In order for this solution to actually work, a group of volunteers will be needed to support any programs that continue at the Roeder Home. Otherwise, the task force efforts will likely become another piece of shelf art, well intentioned but essentially futile.

Breskin is compiling a roster of people who would be willing to volunteer, and she can be reached by email at flip@breskin.com or by phone at 671-4511. She said she is looking for people willing to do a wide range of things, including mentoring and hosting programs, help with creating new programs or invigorating existing ones, along with helping opening, closing and cleaning the home. She is looking for a willingness to help, whether that is on a one-time basis, or something more regular – monthly, weekly, yearly – that would fit in volunteers’ schedules.

She and Whatcom County Parks Director Mike McFarlane encouraged members of the public to comment to county officials about the Roeder Home and its future. You can do so by sending an email to parks@co.whatcom.wa.us, with a subject line of “Roeder Home.” McFarlane has said he will forward all those emails to the County Executive’s office.

In addition to the fee increase, there has also been a confusing discussion about liability insurance, which has further distanced instructors and groups that formerly offered programs at the home.

In a phone conversation, McFarlane explained that some groups using the Roeder Home would be expected to provide liability insurance. He said that each application for use of the Roeder Home – or any other county park facility – would be reviewed by the county risk manager, Randy Watts, to determine if insurance would be required. As an example, he said insurance was required for the Highland Games because of nature of the activities, the number of people attending a public event, and availability of alcohol. The HMS, he said, was not required to provide insurance. In the event some non-profit organization takes on coordination of programs at the Roeder Home, that group may well have liability insurance that would cover events at the home. Details concerning insurance remain to be resolved.

At the Feb. 23 meeting of the task force, Kremen agreed in principle to providing some funding for a short interim period until a coordinating group is in charge of the home. Breskin estimated that cost to be under $5,000.

About Sheri Ward

Citizen Journalist • Member since Feb 18, 2009