The society that owns and operates the Rutland Centennial Hall is trying to put its troubled past behind it.
After an acrimonious power struggle between the former board and its treasurer Wendi Swarbrick— a battle that saw all other board members quit en masse—the Rutland Park Society will hold its first annual general meeting since the mass resignation and subsequent series of raucous membership meetings over the summer, tonight at the hall.
Prior to meeting, Swarbrick, leader of an interim board, said the general public, non-members and the media would not be allowed to attend.
The closed-door AGM will only be open to RPS members who show identification at the door. She added members do not have to renew their memberships tonight, they have until the end of year do so.
Earlier this month, several RPS members were told their membership renewals had been rejected by the board, leaving some to question why.
Among those whose renewals were rejected were former board members, including former RPS president Todd Sanderson.
Another former member whose renewal application was rejected, Brian McCallion, had stated he was not given a reason for the rejection, and Swarbrick had not responded when asked for one.
But on Thursday, Swarbrick said she did respond to McCallion and he knows why his renewal was rejected. But she declined to give the reason. She did, however, reiterate his membership was rejected by the entire board, with the exception of director Joe Iafrancesco, who was not at the meeting where the vote took place.
Contacted later in the day, McCallion said he now believes his membership was rejected because he gave a post box address instead of his residential address.
“But they had my phone number, all they had to do was call me,” he said.
He added he has since spoken to two members of the interim board and they both told him his membership renewal was never put to them for a vote.
Iafrancesco, who quit the board earlier this week saying it was never his intention to seek re-election at the AGM, said he couldn’t comment on the renewals as he was not there. He said the incoming board should leave the past behind and move on.
Both he and Swarbrick said there was no animosity in him leaving the RPS board—he also served on the former board and was part of the mass resignation.
Swarbrick described Iafrancesco as a “professional and classy guy” and wished him well.
Meanwhile, former RPS board member Laurel D’Andrea, whose membership renewal was also rejected, said she hopes society members will turn out for tonight’s meeting and ask a lot of questions of the interim board.
She said she did not plan to attend as she the meeting should be about the membership and moving forward, not about her,the former board or the past.
The AGM is expected to include a presentation of a consultant’s report on the pros and cons of either rebuilding the Rutland Centennial Hall or simply renovating it.
The report was to to presented by the the board as representatives of the consultant firm, CTQ, are not available to attend.
In the past Swarbrick has indicated she was opposed to the rebuilding option, a project that could cost as much as $5 million. Asked about her position Thursday, she said is, in fact, not opposed to a new hall, but feels rebuilding is not financially feasible.
“I would love to see a new hall. All of Rutland would,” she said.
Meanwhile, the society is putting together a hall renovation committee to, in part, decide how a $263,000 federal grant—which can only be used for renovations—should be spent.