Commission Minutes

Public Comment: Kristina Cannon, Executive Director of Main Street Skowhegan and program director of its AmeriCorps Outdoor Recreation Program, provided a primer on her organization and its service-oriented goals. The program provides access and equipment for outdoor activities in the greater Skowhegan area, with services emphasizing outreach and inclusion for under-resourced families. Cannon is especially proud of the high rate of retention and achievement amongst the AmeriCorps members serving in her program.

Sara Knowles, program director of Maine Conservation Corps AmeriCorps Program for Maine DACF, also provided an overview of her AmeriCorps service project, which trains members for environmental stewardship and conservation. Knowles acknowledged that a gradual decline in recruitment numbers in recent years has posed challenges for the service project and that improved recruitment techniques are being developed.

Present: Luke Shorty (Chair), Pamela Proulx-Curry, Thomas Meuser, Kelly Day, Becky Hayes-Boober, Janet May, Diane Lebson, William Guindon, F. Celeste Branham (online), Michael Williams (online), Julia van Steenberghe (online), Jenifer Tilton-Flood (online), Susan Wiggin (online), Chelsey Fortin-Trimble (online), Jacinda Goodwin (online), Thomas Meuser, Scott Adams, Kelly Day, Necole Janczura.

Note: Since several Commissioners attending the meeting remotely over Zoom entered and left the meeting at various times after the Chair’s initial call to order, the number of names in each recorded vote will vary between motions.

Guests: Kristina Cannon, Main Street Skowhegan; Heather Campbell, White Pines; Sara Knowles, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. 

Call to Order: Luke Shorty, Chair, called the meeting to order at 10:25 a.m.

Welcome, Announcements, Agenda Adjustments (Shorty): Commissioners Diane Lebson and Necole Janczura were thanked for their efforts at the recent Governor’s Service Awards event. Will Sedlack has resigned from the Commission due to additional time constraints related to his career. Commissioners were reminded of the board’s current policies regarding conflict of interest and remote attendance.

There were no additions or deletions to the consent agenda.

Consent Agenda: MOVED by Hayes-Boober to approve the consent agenda. SECONDED by Proulx-Curry. Vote on the motion: In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Branham, Williams, Steenberghe,  Wiggin, Meuser, Adams, Day, Janczura, Goodwin. Opposed–none. Motion passed. 

Items approved by the motion: the Commission meeting minutes for March 15, 2024; the reports of the Executive Committee meeting for April 2, 2024 and May 7, 2024; the report of the Climate Corps Task Force meeting for March 25, 2024; and the report of the Excellence and Expertise Task Force for April 18, 2024.

Planning and Future Initiatives  
A.    Maine Volunteer Foundation update
The Foundation recently raised $2,500 in funds. The last MVF board meeting contained a discussion of this year’s Governor’s Service Awards event. There was also discussion about filling board seats and MVF is currently meeting with other non-profit leaders for advice on board recruitment. The board decided to put $10,000 of savings in MVF’s Bangor Savings account into a 9-month CD. The account balance was $23,675 as of 4/30/24.

B. Ensuring a full, representative board by fall 2024 (Shorty): Commissioners were asked to later make lists of names of people they know (including more distant friends of friends) for future reference in case they know any viable candidates who might be qualified and interested in serving on the Commission. Names for Seat 9 (expert in the delivery of environmental services) Seats 10 and 12 (expert in the delivery of educational services to disadvantaged youth), and Seat 17 (expert in the delivery of human services) were requested. Wiggin, Williams, Branham, Wiggin, Shorty, Burke, Meuser, and Fiori will have their terms expire this year, though they are encouraged to seek re-appointment.

C. Commission retreat date/discussion (Shorty): This year’s retreat will be in September. The date is still being determined.

Focus on Mission Responsibilities
A.  Untangling the Transition Timelines
(Crofton, Shorty): The next 12 months will see a series of events that have timelines and decision points that will not always be in synch. Preparing a budget for the next biennium starts in June 2024 at the same time the Commission will begin discussions on moving to the Maine Office of Community Assistance (MOCA). The budget will need to go through Department of Education because MOCA will not be fully operational until July 2025. The transition of leadership has similar issues. 

The various timelines were laid out in a graph for the board and the implications were discussed. The potential transition to MOCA as a new fiscal agent will require careful positioning so that, in the event the transition does not get legislative approval, Maine DOE, the current fiscal agent, will not have the Commission prematurely removed from its budget.

Additional issues in the mix are funding for the Volunteer Sector Program Officer, making the Climate Corps Coordinator position permanent rather than a limited-term position, changing the civil service classification for Executive Director, and federal funding levels. The ED classification is too low and will need to be changed before a new person is hired to attract good candidates. Also, the ED position should have some funding from state general fund to broaden the types of initiatives the person could undertake. Board leaders would like a new ED have a “reverse-shadowing” period in which the outgoing ED becomes a part-time contractor who advises for a brief period. 

B. Commissioner Ambassador Reports on program visits (Various): Hayes-Boober visited I Know ME AmeriCorps on 4/17/2024. The new leadership seemed committed and supportive. The AmeriCorps members felt that their professional futures were being nurtured through this program.

Business Reports 
A. Public Policy
(Proulx-Curry): AmeriCorps’ proposed funding bills are still awaiting consideration by Congress.

B. Grant Selection and Performance Task Force (Guindon):
The chair first thanked everyone who put so much time into the grant assessment and selection process. Specifically mentioned were the peer reviewers and tech reviewers. The task force is making recommendations on each of the two proposals submitted plus a third recommendation for short term funding of a program that received AmeriCorps positions but no funding at the national level. 

MOVED by Lebson that the White Pines AmeriCorps program be funded for year 1 of the 3-year grant up to $94,500, supporting 3.5 MSY distributed over 5 slots, with the stipulation that the funding request be decreased to the allowable cost per MSY and the Performance Measures be corrected. SECONDED by Hayes-Boober. Vote on the motion: In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon , Branham, Williams, Steenberghe,  Wiggin, Meuser, Adams, Day, Janczura Opposed–none. Abstaining–Tilton-Flood. Motion passed. 

MOVED by Hayes-Boober that the Main Street Skowhegan AmeriCorps program be funded for year 1 of the 3-year grant at the level of $216,000, supporting 8 MSY distributed over 8 slots, at the proposed cost per member service year of $27,000 with the stipulation that the Member Development Output measure be corrected. SECONDED by Meuser. Vote on the motion: In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon , Branham, Williams, Steenberghe,  Wiggin, Meuser, Adams, Day, Janczura. Opposed–none. Abstaining–Tilton-Flood. Motion passed. 

MOVED by Lebson that the Maine Conservation Corps AmeriCorps program be funded for one year with up to $1,191,699 supporting 44.13 MSY. The proposed cost per member service year is set at $27,000. SECONDED by Hayes-Boober. In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Branham, Williams, Steenberghe, Wiggin, Meuser, Adams, Day, Janczura. Opposed–none. Abstaining–Tilton-Flood. Motion passed. 

C. Transition Task Force (Shorty): The committee will be meeting next week. There are no updates at the moment.

D.  Communications Task Force (Lebson): The task force is considering this year’s G.S. A. as a “pilot” that will lay the groundwork for the event in future years. Though a very small amount of donations for MVF were generated, the task force is optimistic that next year will yield more. Candidates for the vacant Public Information Officer position are currently being interviewed by staff.

E. Climate Corps Task Force (Branham): The task force is eager to add more Commissioners to its roster.

F. DEI Task Force (Branham): The task force is consulting with indigenous tribes in Maine to develop a land acknowledgement statement for the Commission. The task forced discussed the potential of offering a scholarship to subsidize attendance fees for marginalized groups to attend the Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference organized by Volunteer Maine and MVF in order to improve outreach and connections to these communities in Maine; this could require additional donations given that other costs (such as travel and accommodation for speaker) will need to be covered as well.

G. Commission Staff Reports (Various staff): Commissioners were encouraged to attend the National Service Staff Appreciation Luncheon in June and interact with program staff and members.

Business Wrap-Up (Shorty): The meeting was adjourned at 12:57 p.m. The next scheduled business meeting is June 21, 2024.