Weed Community Resource Center's funding up in the air

Skye Kinkade

The Siskiyou Community Services Council says its decision to terminate all funding to the Weed Community Resource Center was based on an ongoing health and safety violation at the Weed Mercantile Building and the composition of the WCRC board.

Funding was terminated as of Aug. 15.

For approximately two years, the indoor sprinkler system at the Weed Mercantile building, where the WCRC is housed, hasn’t been functioning.

On Aug. 9, the Weed City Council denied a waiver for an order to abate issued by the city’s building and fire officials, but they did give owners Joyce and John Oliver additional time to comply with the order.

Joyce Oliver said she is working with the city to get the sprinklers back online.

The issue goes deeper than the sprinklers, said Jill Phillips, executive director of the Siskiyou Community Services Council, which doles out funding for the county’s 10 Family Resource Centers.

“We already had concerns about the focus of the organization and a potential conflict of interest,” Phillips said, considering that Joyce Oliver is both the executive director of the Family Resource Center and also the owner of the Mercantile.

News regarding the ongoing safety violations at the Mercantile was “illustrative” of the Community Services Council’s concerns, Phillips said.

On Tuesday, Oliver confirmed that all the Weed Community Resource Center’s funding through the Community Resource Center and First 5 has been cut. She explained that the Weed Family Resource Center’s board is the same as the Weed Revitalization Coalition, and this arrangement has been in place for three and a half years. The two organizations work together and integrate their services exceptionally well, Oliver said.

She said Phillips and some other members of the Community Services Council and First 5 attended a Weed Revitalization Coalition board meetings to inform them that if they didn’t change their board structure and leadership, their funding would be terminated.

“They said there is a perception that I’m ‘running the city of Weed’ and told us to reorganize our board,” Oliver said. “I don’t think it’s right for one non-profit to tell another non-profit to change... I realize it’s all politics, but what they’re doing to Weed is unconscionable.”

Clifford Chalenor, a volunteer at the Weed Community Resource Center and treasurer for the Weed Revitalization Coalition, said he is “very frustrated” with the situation. He asserts that the Community Services Council and First 5 made the cuts without speaking to either board.

“They have shown lack of compassion for the clients and children being served at the Weed Community Resource Center site,” Chalenor said.

Phillips said the funding is being held in reserve for the Weed community and will not be taken away from the citizens. However, Phillips said those services need to be carried out in a place that is safe and “under the oversight of organizations that can assure effective implementation that meets the guidelines and requirements of our funding sources.”

Phillips said the Community Services Council doesn’t deny the current Community Resource Center and Joyce Oliver “do great work,” but they are concerned that the Mercantile building has taken a higher priority than the work of the Resource Center itself.

“To have people come to our board meeting and say to us, ‘You’re doing a great job, but you need to change your board or else’ is a little on the ridiculous side,” Oliver said. “I have and the Weed Revitalization Coalition has been working with the community for years and years... things here are working very, very well.”

“We’re interested in stepping away from the current organization and creating a Community Resource Center that incorporates the many different cultures and aspects of the Weed community,” Phillips said of the change.

She said similar situations have occurred at other Community Resource Centers around the county in the past 10 years, including Butte Valley, Tulelake and Scott Valley. Now those organizations are strong and efforts “coalesce around services provided, and not the facilities they’re offered in.”

Phillips said she is hoping the community will step forward to create a new 501c3 organization or work under another Community Resource Center to form a new organization to offer Community Resource Center programs.

Next steps

Oliver said members of the board are working to find out how the Community Services Council and First 5 made their decision and have formally requested copies of the meeting minutes.

“Why weren’t the Weed Community Resource Center, the Weed Revitalization Coalition, and the City of Weed notified about your concerns before taking extreme actions without knowing the facts?” wrote Michael Shannon, president of the Revitalization Coalition in a letter to Kermith Walters, commission chair of First 5 Siskiyou. He explained that all health and safety concerns are being addressed and requested further information about the board’s decision.

Phillips said the Siskiyou Community Services Council is a private non-profit organization, and according to its bylaws, such decisions can be made by the executive committee. The topic has not been discussed with the entire board, though all board members have been informed about the situation.

The Community Services Council executive committee includes president Kirk Andrus, vice president Randy Lawrence, secretary Todd Heie and treasurer Keith Bradley, Phillips said. As the executive director, she is a staff member and has no vote.

Oliver said she and the Weed Revitalization Coalition are working to have funding reinstated.

“Things have been working well. No one had ever attended one of our meetings until they came to tell us to change the way we work without knowing how we function. Things have been this way for three and a half years... to me, this is intimidation,” Oliver said.