by Joshua Maloni
The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees will gather at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday for the annual end-of-the-year wrap-up. Chances are, though, that the other item on the special meeting agenda will draw more of an audience.
It appears that two opposing food collection proposals will be submitted to the board, forcing trustees to accept one or the other. Or neither.
At this week's board meeting, Mayor Bill Geiben asked village residents Claudia Marasco and Mamie Simonson to submit a request to solicit donations just outside of Artpark's South Fourth Street entrance prior to the weekly "Tuesday in the Park" concert series. The proposal would mirror what was done in 2009 when the two women led an effort to raise money and non-perishable food items for Heart, Love and Soul and Community Missions.
"Claudia and Mamie, would you be so kind as to put something in writing requesting the dates that you would like?" Geiben asked.
"You put a request in for what you want, that you think will meet the needs," he said.
However, no sooner did Geiben finish speaking than Tom Huisgen, representing the Lewiston Lions Club, asked the board to allow his group to collect those same items within the state park. The caveat, Huisgen said, is that the Artpark & Co. board of directors would only sign-off on such an endeavor if there are no other street collections on Tuesday nights.
"We're requesting that the Village of Lewiston support our efforts to collect charitable donations as patrons enter Artpark for the ‘Tuesday in the Park' concerts," Huisgen said. "It's my understanding that the Artpark board of directors has granted us permission for this with their condition that no other parties collect on the village streets on Tuesday nights."
Artpark & Co. President George Osborne has repeatedly said that the collection of food is a village issue, and not an Artpark one.
Geiben called last year's food collection process successful - "not perfect ... but it met a need," he said. "The Lions Club, in their very generous offer ... that specific group (from 2009) has kind of been lost."
Trustee Ron Craft, who is also a member of the Lions Club, said, "We're interested in helping everybody."
Geiben expressed concern over painting the issue with such a board stroke.
"To leave it open to just share it with people that apply, that will take away from the efforts of the group (that collected) last year," Geiben said.
While seemingly the two proposals cannot co-exist, Huisgen said there is opportunity for both groups to work together.
"Resolving that (conflict) is exactly the project we need to work on," he said. "It appears there may be some sort of coordinated effort evolving."
Craft said the Lions Club would give the performing arts venue a portion - 30 percent of all monies raised has been bandied about - "to help them keep this going."
Marasco said she is concerned with Artpark taking a portion of the proceeds from the collections.
"We're not against the park fundraising, but you know what? Maybe they could do it on Wednesday night?" she said. "And they (could) run their own fundraiser in the park. But not for our food project. We don't want a cut of the food money to go to anyone other than the people that need to be fed."