Richmond Astronomical Society

May 2016 Board Meeting Minutes

May 9th, 2017 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting – May 16, 2016


President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:04 pm.


Attendees (11+1):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • Matthew Roy, Vice President
  • John Raymond, Observatory Director
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • Gary Cowardin
  • Michael Pitchford
  • Mike Lico
  • Ken Wilson
  • Betty Wilson
  • Dave Medici
  • Leslie Bochenski (non-board)


Missing (2):

  • Ted Bethune
  • Madhup Rathi


Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • February’s board meeting minutes accepted.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary          (as of   2/29/2016):                (as of   5/16/2016):
  • General Fund: 69                            16513.07
  • Observatory Fund:         49                                  88.63
  • TOTAL: 18                            16601.70


  • Checking Account:    40                             11487.03
  • Savings Account:     89                               2863.10
  • Certificate of Deposit:     89                               2251.57
  • Pay Pal Acct:          00                                     0.00
  • TOTAL:   18                             16601.70


After a brief discussion, the treasurer’s report was accepted by the board.

We need to create a proposed budget for next fiscal year (10/16 to 9/17).

Membership count in May: 58 paid members, including 14 observatory members.


Observatory Report (given by Jim Browder for John)

  • No issues reported
  • Since it has rained a lot recently, the grass has grown and needs to be cut.
  • John Barnett is planning a skywatch with Boy Scouts on June 9


Library Report (given by Jim Browder for Virginia)

  • Virginia is doing a great job.
  • No issues reported
  • Music instruments are now being stores in the library (at Richmond Alarm Company).


Education / Outreach Report:

  • Jim Browder’s photo of the recent Mercury transit appeared in the paper
  • Astronomy Day (May 14) : Thanks to Matthew Roy and Leslie Bochenski for a great job that led to a successful Astronomy Day.  The activities were attended by 25 visitors and several RAS members.  The board discussed improvements for next year, including name tags, press releases, and advertisements through all forms of the media.
  • Possible opportunity at Tucker Park in Maidens, VA (Goochland County near junction of 64 and 522).  Interest in having Sunday night skywatches at this nature park.  Concern from board:  Is Sunday a good night for public skywatches, considering work and school the next morning?  A decision is needed by June 1.  Action: Michael Pitchford will investigate.
  • Numerous upcoming star parties are on the calendar, including several at Powhatan State park.



Old Business

  • Corinne Callison, an RAS member, has offered her assistance in giving social media support (possibly what’s in the sky, events, stories of interest)
  • Inclusion process (keeping attention to it)


New Business

  • Filling of 990-N online tax form is due.  This form needs to be filed by every small tax-exempt group.
  • Mutual of Omaha offer – marketing letter to RAS offering discounts to insurance deals.  Asking to advertise and present at meetings.  RAS is not endorsing the agent or the product.  No vote was taken, but atmosphere at board meeting seemed against it.
  • A draft of the RAS Communication plan was presented by Betty Wilson and Mike Lico.  Many discussion points were brought up, including who gets the “power” to approve and send out press releases?  Procedure needs to be agreed upon for different kinds, including urgent releases that need to go out quickly in 2 hour or 24 hours.  What events do we publicize? What media do we use and when?  We need to establish designated contacts.
  • Belmead status (2267 acres) has been idle until recently.  It is an environmental center in Powhatan and is nearly self-sufficient.
    • Announced sale of property by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS) in Philadelphia.  No details on financial issues or obligations.    The local staff at Belmead was not aware of the sale decision.  If the sale is not completed immediately, time will allow interested groups to raise money to hopefully buy the property and preserve it as environmental.  Jim Browder attended the press conference, having 5 speakers.  Not all future options were considered.  Usually, sales of this nature take months to review and complete.
    • SBS has stated they would agree to all agreements with RAS for the time being.
    • Historical note: The body of St. Catherine, 1 of 2 American saints, is in the Mother House in Philadelphia.  St. Catherine did her work at Belmead.
    • RAS building is under construction – delivery changed from May 20 to early June.
    • Proposed plan of action:
      • Seek another long-term location
      • If no location is identified quickly, then:
        • Place building at Belmead considering it may be temporary.  RAS will be granted 30 days notice to leave if new owners object to us being there.  Would the storage facility be a persuasion to help change the sale decision?
        • Place building at Observatory temporarily
        • Place building at another temporary location, possibly a member’s property
    • The board has given Jim permission to make the final decision for building delivery if there are last minute issues.  The board would like the storage building to go to Belmead.
    • The board is interested in the thoughts of the Equestrian group at Belmead.  They will have more interest in the land and have a long standing reputation.  What do they have planned?  Hunt club at Belmead? Gardening business?
  • Core drilling request – Michael Davias has a geological interest in drilling near the RAS observatory.  It is considered ‘encumbered property’ and is part of the original ‘Carolina bays’, left after the oceans receded and left pool-like marks in the environment.  He is looking for ‘shock quartz’ that is left in situations like this.  2/3 of the interested area is inside the fence around the observatory, leaving the remaining 1/3 in the woods outside the fence.  Davias did similar research in an area near Winsor Farms about a year ago.  Board concerns: how big is the drilling core?  How deep does he have to dig? Do we need county permission for underground research?  Will this create unwanted publicity to the observatory location?



Next Meeting Date – August 15, 2016


Meeting was adjourned at 8:50 pm.

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