Camp Hope committee to be formed

By DeeAnna Haney | Apr 18, 2014

It's been nearly a year since the Town of Canton won a weeks long civil court battle to keep Camp Hope. As town leaders continue their efforts to hold onto the property, they have agreed to form a special committee tasked with focusing on Camp Hope.

During the board of aldermen meeting last week, members of the Friends of Camp Hope, an organization that came together after the trial to spruce up and watch over the property, requested the board create a town-led Camp Hope committee rather than have Friends of Camp Hope as a separate entity.

Among the most active members of the Friends of Camp Hope are Tracy O'neil and Pam Kearse, both of whom live near the property.

After forming last year, the organization began a partnership with the town, regularly bringing updates to the mayor and aldermen at town board meetings about progress at the camp and working with the town to make sure the elements of the original deed are met.

"Our goal has always been to work with the town to help Camp Hope reach its full potential," Kearse said.

During the board meeting, long-time Canton attorney and former mayor Pat Smathers suggested the town establish a standing Camp Hope committee, much like the recreation committee, for example.

"There are several benefits to doing that because it provides continuity," Smathers told the board.

Among the reasons included the need for a legal structure for the organization when it comes to insurance and liability, accounting, fundraising and more.

"People donating to Camp Hope want to know their money is taken care of," Smathers said.

If under the control of the town, any monies donated to Camp Hope would be automatically tax deductible and any potential accident that occurs on the property would fall under the town's insurance policy. The town would also be in charge of appointing members to the committee.

Though the Friends of Camp Hope gathered paperwork several months ago to apply for 501C3 nonprofit status, they never went through with filling it out. After getting advice from Smathers, they decided it would be best for the organization and the town to create the committee.

"We will continue to operate as we have been as far as the work and volunteering, just under the umbrella of the town," Kearse said. "We just felt like this would streamline communication and effectiveness."

Alderman Zeb Smathers made a motion to create the committee, which was seconded by Alderman Ralph Hamlett. Though Alderman Carole Edwards said she would liked to have had more time to consider it, she also voted in favor of it.

"I think we should support it," she said.

The board of aldermen unanimously approved to create a Camp Hope committee. O'Neil made a formal request that the board consider appointing the nine members who already make up the Friends of Camp Hope, however the board had no further discussion about who will serve on the committee.

One of the first issues the new committee will likely tackle is the rental fees of the property, which O'neil expressed the Friends of Camp Hope believes need to be reconsidered.

"We feel the daily rental is too expensive and the weekly rental is too inexpensive," O'neil said, adding that he would also like the board to consider allowing discounts for local residents and businesses who wish to have events at Camp Hope.

Edwards asked the Friends of Camp Hope to bring the aldermen ideas of what they think would be reasonable prices to help them in their decision.