From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 46 - 7/14/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

$150,000 Learning Center Donation Could Be in Jeopardy
Learning Center, anonymous donors unable to reach agreement on new building name
by Rob Shaul

On Tuesday, County Clerk Mary Lankford returned a $150,000 check to the anonymous donors who had intended the money go towards construction of the new Pinedale Learning Center. Though she had the check in hand, Ms. Lankford was unable to deliver the money to the Learning Center Board of Directors because they and the anonymous donors have been unable to come together on the name of the new building.

The anonymous donors offered the $150,000 in early June, but it came with two stipulations. First, in the event that the new building ever stopped being used for early childhood education, the donors stipulated that it would revert to county ownership. Second, the anonymous donors demanded that the new facility be named the "Martha Ptasnik Learning Center."

On June 15th, Pinedale's Peggy Noble, Chairwoman of the Learning Center Board of Directors, sent a letter to the anonymous donors agreeing to the first stipulation. Concerning the second stiplation, Ms. Noble wrote that her board would agree to naming the building the "Martha Ptasnik Building."

At its June 20 meeting, the County Commissioners set the deadline to execute the deed for the new building on July 7 - last Friday.

However, according to Ms. Noble, late last Friday afternoon, her Board was informed that the anonymous donors were not satisfied with naming the building the "Martha Ptasnik Building." They wanted it to be named the "Martha Ptasnik Learning Center." Also, through Mary Lankford, the donors asked that the deadline for executing the deed be extended until Monday.

Ms. Noble says the new building cannot legally be named the "Martha Ptasnik Learning Center," because it could compromise the non-profit Learning Center Corporation. This is why the Learning Center suggested the "Martha Ptasnik Building" name instead.

Ms. Lankford disagrees. She argues that naming the new building the "Martha Ptasnik Learning Center" would not compromise the corporation because the deed is site specific.

On Monday, the deed execution deadline was extended again until this Tuesday at noon.

Early on Tuesday, Tom Brown of Pinedale, who is also on the Learning Center Board, suggested a compromise name for the new building - the "Martha Ptasnik Learning Center Building."

According to Ms. Lankford, this compromise was acceptable to the anonymous donors. The Learning Center had a problem, however. Mr. Brown did not have the authority to speak for the entire board, and the compromise name would have to be approved by a quorum of board members. The Learning Center's attorney attempted to contact board members, but was able to reach just three of the members, says Ms. Noble - not enough to give the OK.

The anonymous donors requested another deadline extension, but Ms. Noble decided not to grant it. The deed without the anonymous donors' donation was executed, and Mary Lankford returned the check.

Disputes and Deadlines

For her part, Ms. Noble said she decided not to extend the deed execution deadline a third time because she felt the donors were not being fair. "It kind of bothers me that they never told us the name was a problem," says Ms. Noble. "At the last minute, to tell us the name was a problem, is not fair."

Ms. Noble maintains that the anonymous donors knew the Learning Center Board was proposing the "Martha Ptasnik Building" name since June 15th, yet had waited until the last minute to inform the Board they weren't satisfied. "The name is a very simple thing," she says, "something that we're very workable with. I wish they would have let us know sooner so we could have pulled the board together."

Ms. Noble points out that her Board isn't saying no to a compromise on the name. In fact, she plans to bring it up at the next board meeting on August 2.

Ms. Lankford disputes that the anonymous donors knew for sure that the Learning Center Board intended to name the building the "Martha Ptasnik Building" back on June 15th. She acknowledges the letter from Ms. Noble, but says the deeds listing the proposed name weren't completed and given to the anonymous donors until Thursday, June 29th. She explains that with the weekend, and people being out of town, all of the donors weren't contacted until late last week. This is why the donors' problem with the deed was not communicated to the Learning Center until late Friday afternoon.

Where the $150,000 donation stands now is not clear. Both sides have tentatively agreed to the compromise name of the "Martha Ptasnik Learning Center Building," but the Learning Center Board won't be able to authorize the name until its August 2, meeting.

Without the $150,000, the Learning Center Board is about $170,000 short of the funding needed to pay for the $750,000 building. However, Ms. Noble says this deficit, "doesn't put our building in financial jeopardy."

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