Corporation re-elects Miller to board, receives updates from Institution

Rabab Al-Sharif | Staff Writer

The annual meeting of the Chautauqua Corporation took place Saturday morning in the Hall of Philosophy followed by an open forum.

The meeting began with an introduction of the present trustees and approval of the 2011 minutes.

The Chautauqua Institution board is made up of 24 trustees, 20 of whom are elected by the board itself. Members of the corporation, which includes property owners, elect the other four trustees.

One of those trustees, Greg Miller, will reach the end of his term this season.

The Chautauqua Property Owner’s Association endorsed him for a second term as a Class B trustee. Miller, a lifelong Chautauquan, created and maintains the CPOA website among other community and volunteer efforts.

He was unanimously elected for a second term at the meeting Saturday.

George T. Snyder, chairman of the board, announced that four members of the board would not be returning and that those positions would be filled at a meeting in August.

Stan Lundine and Chace Anderson are retiring after the season ends, and Kathryn Lincoln and Salvatore Martoche have chosen to end their terms early.

The open forum began with Sebby Baggiano, Institution treasuer and vice president for finance and community services, giving an overview of the audited financial reports.

Based on their audit and represented in their independent auditors report dated April 13, 2012, auditors concluded the consolidated financial statements fairly present the financial position of the Institution at Dec. 31, 2011, Baggiano said.

Copies of the full financial auditing statements are available at the Treasurer’s Office, he said.

Institution President Thomas M. Becker then gave his annual report.

Becker discussed the progress of this season, noting that most areas are on target or ahead with estimated budgets and revenue including Chautauqua Golf Club, Chautauqua Bookstore, food service, Boys’ and Girls’ Club and Children’s School.

With a large investment in the Brick Walk Cafe, food services revenue is up about 30 percent compared to last year, Becker said.

Becker also mentioned the energy invested in planting trees before the season started.

Because of a mild winter, Becker assumed the trees would be in better shape this year.

“It was sure easy on our plowing budget, so I was grinning at the start of the season,” he said. “Unfortunately, it turns out that a soft winter is bad for trees in a lot of ways.”

Some trees need the deep cold, he said. Also, the squirrels do not hibernate, but scamper on the trees causing further damage.

As a result, the Institution spent more money than anticipated for tree maintenance.

“All the savings from plowing went away and then some,” Becker said.

One member of the community asked for an update on the search for a new Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra artistic director.

Becker said that although a year ago he said it would be a three-year process, it will be a longer one, and there is no specific time frame of when a new director will be in place.

In the meantime, the CSO has an artistic committee that works with Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming, on selecting repertoire.

“I think the presence of an artistic director is necessary to ground the group,” Becker said. “They’re wonderful, but having to react to a new leader all the time can be unsettling.”

Becker also went into great detail about the Amphitheater rehabilitation project, giving an overview of what changes will be made.

The project is under the U.S. interior secretary’s definition of a historic rehabilitation, Becker said, and many issues are being considered in the planning phase, including safety, the environment and functionality.

Nothing is going to happen with the project until the Institution can raise the money up front, he said.

“We don’t have a pool of money to (rehabilitate) the Amphitheater, and then raise the money to replace that pool,” he said. “That’s not the way it works.”

The current figure is somewhere between $24 million and $25 million.

“That’s a lot of money in anybody’s world,” Becker said. “In our world, it’s a huge amount of money for a single project.”