Commission Minutes

Public Comment : None.

Present: Luke Shorty (Chair), Pamela Proulx-Curry, Thomas Meuser, Kelly Day, Becky Hayes-Boober, Janet May, Diane Lebson, William Guindon, Matt Williams, F. Celeste Branham (online), Michael Williams (online), Julia van Steenberghe (online), Jenifer Tilton-Flood (online), Susan Cheesman (ex officio, online), Will Sedlack (online), Susan Wiggin (online), Chelsey Fortin-Trimble (online).

Note: Since several Commissioners 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 each motion.

Guests: John Portela, Maine Volunteer Foundation. 

Call to Order: Luke Shorty, Chair, called the meeting to order at 10:11 a.m.

Welcome, Announcements, Agenda Adjustments (Shorty): Guindon and Sedlack correctly answered this month’s Commissioner quiz. There will be no board meeting in January 2024.

There were no additions or deletions to the consent agenda.

Consent Agenda: MOVED by Proulx-Curry to approve the consent agenda. SECONDED by Hayes-Boober. Vote on the motion: In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Michael Williams, Matt Williams, Branham, Steenberghe, Tilton-Flood, Sedlack. Opposed–none. Motion passed. 
Items approved by the motion: the Commission meeting minutes for October 20, 2023; the report of the Executive Committee meeting for November 7, 2023; the report of the Climate Corps Task Force meeting for November 15, 2023; and the report of the Excellence and Expertise Task Force for November 16, 2023.

Planning and Future Initiatives  
A.    Maine Volunteer Foundation update
(Portela):  The purpose of Foundation was explained for the benefit of new Commissioners: MVF exists to raise private funds to further the Commission; right now, it supports the Maine Service Fellows program. Currently, MVF is recruiting and interviewing candidates for three open seats on its board. Also, MVF is assisting with the upcoming Governor’s Service Awards and full planning for this event will begin in January 2024.  Annual appeal for contributions from MVF and Commissioners is ongoing, with the goal of raising enough funds to support Maine Service Fellows for several years; this annual appeal is important because when MVF approaches corporations, philanthropic foundations, and high-net worth individuals seeking donation, these potential donors often asked if MVF can support itself presently by contributions from its members as a means to judge how committed MVF is to its mission.

B. Commission Ambassadors to Maine National Service programs (Crofton):
Commissioners learned about how documentation in BaseCamp will show them how to carry out duties when assigned to interface with a specific service project as a point person and representative of the Commission board. Commissioners are required to make the first site visit before 2024’s first board meeting. Mileage and expenses cannot be counted as match.

C. Transition Task Force and Executive Committee – recommendation of future Commission structure and process for approval of final report (Shorty): L.D. 1934 was a resolve passed in 2023 that charged Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation, and the Future (GOPIF) with studying how best to provide technical assistance and planning support from state government to communities and regional planning agencies. Their report was due to State and Local Government the first week of December. That week, GOPIF shared that it was proposing to establish a new community assistance office and move the Commission into that office which is expected to be established by July 1, 2024. The news came just as the Transition Committee was reviewing the final report on LD1260 which proposed to move the Commission to the Secretary of State Department (SOS), a move that would be effective July 1, 2025. 

The Commission’s Executive Committee quickly organized meetings with everyone who was on the Transition Task Force and key people at GOPIF. Exec also moved it’s meeting to December 12 so all information could be considered. As a result, Executive Committee recommends the Commission support the proposal in the report back for LD1934 that has the new fiscal agent be the office proposed. If the legislature does not support establishing that office, Executive Committee recommends moving forward with the recommendation from the Transition Task Force that the Commission affiliate with the Secretary of State.

MOVED by Hayes-Boober that the Maine Commission for Community Service should support the recommendation in the LD1934 report and have the new independent office as its fiscal agent if the legislature authorizes creation of that office. SECONDED by Proulx-Curry.

Discussion on motion consisted of observations that moving to SoS would curtail the current board autonomy and the Executive Director. In addition, the proposed Deputy Secretary of Civic Engagement in SoS would be only dedicating 20% of his or her time to the Commission and the Commission Director would be focused on operations. This,  the board felt, would be a limited capacity within SoS to support the Commission. Multiple Commissioners expressed that they were initially in favor of the SoS proposal (which came first), but after seeing the later opportunity described by GOPIF’s report, decided it is a better means to separate from DOE and secure a new organizational status. Meuser and Cheesman noted that though the path outlined by L.D. 1934 will likely be better in the long-term for capacity and autonomy, the first year or two after the transition will be difficult with regards to new accounting systems, cash management, and federal filing--especially given that current payment processes through the current interdepartmental relationship with DAFS are strained and do not have consistent processes for filing. 

Vote on the motion: In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Matt Williams, Michael Williams, Branham, Steenberghe, Tilton-Flood, Wiggin. Opposed–none. Motion passed. 

The Commissioners expressed appreciation for Crofton’s leadership during the transition planning process.

Business Reports 
A. Public Policy
(Proulx-Curry, Shorty): Congressional funding decisions for the AmeriCorps are not yet known, though the proposal in the US House would set the budget at approximately $660 million, a massive cut that is half of the 2023 budget, whereas as the US Senate’s proposed budget is a modest decrease that would set the agency’s budget at approximately $1.2 billion. 

B. Grant Selection and Performance Task Force (Guindon):
MOVED by Guindon to recognize peer reviewers for their service: Ben Levek, Philip Bosse, and Megan MacIsaac. SECONDED by Proulx-Curry.
Vote on the motion:   In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Matt Williams, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Branham, Steenberghe, Tilton-Flood, Wiggin. Opposed–none. Motion passed. 

MOVED by Guindon that the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) be submitted to the federal competition and approved for 12 AmeriCorps members who will increase municipal and regional capacity for community and environmental resilience, throughout Cumberland and York Counties, The AmeriCorps investment of $300,000 will be matched with $220,142 - $193,592 in public funding and $17,950 in private funding. SECONDED by Hayes-Boober.

Vote on the motion:   In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Branham, Steenberghe, Matt Williams, Tilton-Flood. Opposed–none.       Abstention—Wiggin.  Motion passed. 

MOvED by Guindon that the Maine Conservation Corps be recommended for continuation with 99 AmeriCorps members who will complete vital environmental stewardship and capacity building activities. Team-based placements will focus on recreational trail rehabilitation and construction as well as habitat restoration; individual placement members will be engaged in host site-specific objectives such as ecological monitoring, environmental education, community forestry projects, volunteer engagement, and expanding volunteer management practice in Maine. The AmeriCorps investment will be matched with $1,550,277 - $1,085,194 in public funding, and $465,083 in private funding. SECONDED by Hayes-Boober.

Vote on the motion:   In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Branham, Michael Williams, Matt Williams, Steenberghe, Tilton-Flood, Wiggin. Opposed–none. Motion passed. 

There was discussion about how several grantees quit and returned their grants in this grant year; the most common reason for premature closure is the host organization failing to set a program director position firmly in place and plan for how the rest of its staff capacities will adjust to accommodate the AmeriCorps grant.

There was discussion that the former program Lifelong AmeriCorps at UMaine Center on Aging fell apart due to a severe lack of organizational support (though the program director put in impressive and effective effort) from the UMaine system. Commissioners noted that adding AmeriCorps members to a team requires management and guidance, and that the added administrative burden of AmeriCorps members needs to be factored into organizational planning given that programs often fail when their host organization simply assumes that nothing will change upon adding members.

C. Executive Committee (Shorty)
by Guindon to extend the Commission’s 2023 strategic plan through 2024. SECONDED by Meuser. 
Vote on the motion:   In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Branham, Matt Williams, Michael Williams, Steenberghe, Tilton-Flood, Wiggin, Fortin-Trimble. Opposed–none. Motion passed. 

There was discussion that Commission does not have a person in its seat representing organized labor, and that the seat will need to be occupied soon in order to be in compliance with federal law. Shorty asked Commissioners to use their networks to aid in the search for candidates.

There was discussion that the Commission will prepare a letter to the Governor expressing serious concerns about the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. The letter will address (a) tardiness with paying the Commission’s vendors and grantees (some payments are nearly two months overdue after being sent to DAFS for payment), and (b) the untenably slow processing of employment applications for open positions by DAFS Human Resources that results in candidates losing interest and taking other job offers before an interview with the Commission staff can occur. The Commission will review a draft of this letter soon.

Crofton explained the ongoing technical and administrative issues within DAFS that are obstructing the use of federal grants and that these issues have been persisted since October. During this meeting, Crofton received a message from DAFS saying that cash is now being drawn to pay pending payments; Commissioners will be updated on the progress and extent of these payments throughout the coming weeks.

D.  Communications Task Force (Lebson): The task force added two new members and has considered promotional efforts for AmeriCorps service opportunities in Maine that include airports and other transportation centers, as well as a three-word tagline for service in Maine.

E. Maine Service Fellows Advisory Task Force (Branham): MSF Director Jake Hurner has left the Commission. Kirsten Brewer has assumed management of Maine Service Fellow initiatives. 

F. Climate Corps Task Force (Brewer): Maine Climate Corps Network is now active and consists of nine members; some are grantees while others are independently funded.

G. DEI Task Force (Branham): This Task Force continues its research into groups that should be consulted before a land acknowledgment statement is written for the Commission.

H. Excellence and Expertise Task Force (Ashmore): Ashmore provided an overview of volunteer management training at this Task Force’s last meeting.

I. AmeriCorps federal agency update (Cheesman): NOFOs for public health service projects and AmeriCorps Seniors are now available on the federal agency’s website. The concept papers for VISTA are due in March 2024 and Forest Corps NCCC is currently recruiting. The 30th Anniversary celebration of AmeriCorps is continuing. The agency will promote the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in February 2024.

J. Commission Staff Reports (Various staff): The Commission is working with DOE’s legislative personnel to request funding for Program Officer for Volunteer Initiatives position and to create a full-time Office Administrator position. Semester of Service recipients will begin their grants in January. 

Business Wrap-Up (Shorty):  MOVED by Lebson to adjourn the business meeting. SECONDED by Proulx-Curry. 
In favor–Shorty, Proulx-Curry, Meuser, Day, Hayes-Boober, May, Lebson, Guindon, Branham, Michael Williams, Matt Williams, Steenberghe, Tilton-Flood, Wiggin, Fortin-Trimble. Opposed–none. Motion passed.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:18 p.m.