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Shelton Mason County Journal
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Mason County Journal
News of Mason County, WA
August 21, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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August 21, 2014
 

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Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 - Mason County Journal - Page A-21 A section of the Mason County Journal Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 - Serving the communities of Belfair, Allyn, Gra[ Mason Lake, Shore and Victor Residents discuss future of school district's ro/e By NATALIE JOHNSON natalie@masoncoun com The North Mason community had an- other opportunity to comment on the fate of what many consider to be a defining fea- ture of Belfair. "We really feel that Theler is the gem of the community," said Julie Wasserburger, principal of Belfair Elementary School. Wasserburger was summarizing a dis- cussion between residents at a public forum Thursday at North Mason High School to discuss the Mary E. Theler Com- munity Center. The North Mason School Board voted in June to place the center on its surplus list due, in part, to mounting costs related to maintaining the center. The school dis- trict has been financially supporting the center in recent months after allegations of misconduct surfaced regarding its former management. District property must be placed on the surplus list before it can be sold. At the forum, district administrators and school board members sat with resi- dents at five round tables in the North Mason commons. Each person at the table had one minute to answer two questions regarding the center. Seventy-five to 100 people attended the meeting. Residents were asked to consider what the responsibilities of a citizen's advisory committee on the Theler Center would be and how the Theler Center could become self-sustaining in the future. Several groups said the community should have a say in determining the ad- visorycommittee's charge, residents said. Most agreed that the Theler Center and wetlands should continue to operate as a community center open to the public. Another group suggested that the advi- sory committee should have all-new mem- bers. "Anyone who's going to he involved in the Theler Advisory committee should not be anyone who was previously involved," said Clint Forsythe, district technology di- rector, representing his table. Last year, allegations of mismanage- ment against former Theler executive Di- rector Anne Whitman arose after the The- ler board discovered missing money and years of unfiled tax returns. The Mason County Sheriffs Office is conducting an embezzlement investigation. No charges Herald photos by Natalie Johnson Anne Crosby, principal of the North Mason School District's PACE Academy Alternative High School and director of its Homelink program, writes down opinions from community members on the future of the Mary E. Theler Community Center in Belfair. North Mason School Board member John Campbell listens to residents Thursday during a forum on the future of the Mary E. Theler Community Cen- ter in Belfair. have been filed. Three weeks after celebrating the cen- ter's 30th anniversary, the Theler board voluntarily terminated its lease with the school district. According to school district estimates, the now-defunct Theler organization has more than $216,000 in debt, including $125,000 in back taxes it owes to the IRS. "The board has a very difficult set of decisions they will be making in the next weeks and months," said district Superin- tendent Dana Rosenbach at the forum. "It's a very complicated issue. They're having to struggle with things that are very unusual for school boards to deal with." In addition to scheduling the forum, the school board conducted an online survey to get input on the Theler Center. The survey collected 244 online respons- es, and several paper copies turned in at the district office, Rosenbach said. "There were some strong emotions, as you might imagine," she said. Since the school district terminated its lease with the Theler center board of direc- tors, the district has been paying to keep the center open to the public. District Business and Finance Director see THELER, page A-22 in need North Mason Re- sources will have a fund- raising spaghetti dinner and dessert auction from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 8 in the fellowship hall at Belfair Community Church. Dinner is $10 for adults, and $5 for per- sons 9 and younger or 66 and older. The evening's chef is Linda Taylor, a member of North Mason Resources board of direc- tors. The proceeds will go to the nonprofit North Mason Resources, which provides services through groups that include WorkSource, Veterans' Assistance, MTG Meds, Behavioral Health Resources, Re- source Coordinator, DSHS, Community Food Pantry, Preventive Den- tal, Homeless Advocate, Veterans' Mental Health Professionals, Nurse Family Partnership, Visiting County Nurse, Northwest Children's Outreach, Olympic Col- lege and Bridge to Self- Sufficiency. Ticket are available at the North Mason Re- sources office, 140 NE state Route 300, across the street from the Bel- fair QFC. They are also available at the door. For more information, call 552-2303. schedules A groundbreaking ceremony for the HUB Center for Seniors will be hosted at 2 p.m. Fri- day at 151 N.E. Old Bel- fair Highway in Belfair. The site work is almost completed for the center, and construction is sched- uled.to begin this fall. The event is spon- sored by Bamford Long see BRIEFS, page A-22