Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mount Hope Farm needs your HELP

Many of you might have been reading in the Phoenix newspaper
about various changes going on at Mount Hope Farm. The farm
is undergoing a current transition with a new and capable interim
director, Michael Gerhardt. Jim Farley, past President, has officially

Tonight the Town Council (at Town Hall at 7 pm) will decide if the
Town of Bristol will give Mount Hope Farm a bridge loan to help
them through a current difficult financial period.

Personally, I have been fortunate to be part of a small citizens group
formed in March called Citizen's for Mount Hope Farm (CMHF)
co-chaired by Mike Byrnes and Bonnie Warren. Some of us had the
opportunity to meet once with Michael Gerhardt. He has agreed to be
our guest speaker tomorrow night (June 10) at out regular CMHF
meeting at 6:30pm at the Bristol Library in the Herreshoff Meeting
Room on the Lower Level. You are cordially invited to attend this meeting
and to bring others who you think might be interested. Please RSVP
so I can be sure to provide you with a chair!

We have been working with Michael Gerhardt in organizing committees
to help the farm get back on track and to positively get the place moving
forward. Seven Committees are in the process of being formed. They are:

Governance (By Laws and nominating)
Development (Fundraising)
Long Term Planning
Buildings and Grounds
Marketing and Publicity

If you would like to volunteer on a committee, receive minutes of
past meetings or to be contacted with information of our next meeting
please let me know.

I regret I am sending this with such short notice. I'll be providing more
news of the farm as events occur and work progresses.
I hope you will think about joining this vital and important cause.
Lindsay Green for CMHF

PS Below is an open letter to the Town Council dated May 3, 2010
written by members of the CMHF By Laws committee.

To: The Honorable Bristol Town Council

May 3, 2010

Bristol Town Council
Town Hall, 10 Court Street
Bristol, RI 0809

Dear Town Council:

The Citizens for Mount Hope Farm (CMHF) is a “Citizens group to promote good governance and economic viability at Mount Hope Farm.” Members include concerned neighbors, volunteers, business owners, educators, environmentalists, farmers, historians, and planners.

As a first step, we met with Ken Marshall, President of the Bristol Town Council, on April 4, 2010. Ken was asked if THE MOUNT HOPE TRUST IN BRISTOL BY-LAWS, amended in 1999 and now under review, were subject to public comment. This letter is in response to Marshall’s request that we submit our observations and suggestions.

It is our conclusion that governance of the Mount Hope Trust (the Trust) has not served the Trust’s Mission well. The management structure is overly complicated and the current management lacks transparency and does not allow for public involvement in governance of the Trust.

Therefore, we respectfully offer the following Recommendations:

1) The public would be better served if governance is re-organized as a traditional membership corporation. In such a traditional corporation, each person who is a member has one (1) vote at an annual general membership meeting where the election of Trustees and Officers for the ensuing year takes place. “Article IV BOARD OF TRUSTEES” needs to be re-written to involve citizens of the Town of Bristol and the surrounding region. We would be happy to supply model language on Meetings, Quorums, Voting and Dues, if needed.

2) The governance structure should be rationalized by doing away with the Board
of Governors and reconstituting the Board of Trustees which should have the
duty and power to direct the activities and affairs of the corporation. The Trustees should delegate authority to committees, officers, employees, agents or representatives to carry out the Mission of the Corporation/Trust. At a minimum, the Trustees should designate the following Committees: Buildings and Grounds; Finance/Audit; Finance/Investments; Development/ Programs and Nominating. To support this structure, the number of “At Large Trustees” should be from eleven (11) to fifteen (15) members.

3) Town representation on the Board of Trustees should be reduced from three (3) members to one (1) member. This would preferably be a Bristol resident appointed by the Town Council to serve for a three (3) year term, subject to a one term extension by majority vote of the Town Council.

4) A critical issue to improve governance is the need to establish Term limits for the “At Large Trustees.” Board members should serve a three (3) year term and be eligible for a second, consecutive term, if nominated and elected. After a second term, a Board member shall not be eligible for re-election for an interval of at least one year.

5) To reinforce the Mission of the Trust, the Trust should develop Conservation
Easements and Historical Preservation Easements “in perpetuity,” that will be recorded in the Land Evidence Records of the Town of Bristol. This could be accomplished by adding a new Section 10 to Article III, “MANAGEMENT AND RESTRICTIONS FOR MOUNT HOPE FARM.”

The CMHF recognizes that we are a citizens advisory group and that the authority to make amendments and create new By-Laws for the Mount Hope Trust is the responsibility of the present Board of Trustees. We also recognize that the Town Council has the power to approve amendments of Article III and Article IV by a majority vote. We hope that the contents of this letter will provide constructive recommendations for use by decision makers. Our purpose, as stated, is to promote good governance and economic viability at Mount Hope Farm. We appreciate the opportunity to provide input and look forward to your response.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael T. Byrnes Elizabeth S. Warren
Co-Chair, CMHF Co-Chair, CMHF

cc. Town Council
Town Administrator
Town Clerk
Town Solicitor
Board of Trustees Mount Hope Farm

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