Richmond Astronomical Society

Board Meetings

February 2015 Board Meeting minutes

May 16th, 2015 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting February 23, 2015

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:01 pm.

Attendees (9):
• Jim Browder, President
• Dave Medici, Vice President
• Jim Blowers, Treasurer
• Chris McCann, Secretary
• John Raymond, Observatory Director
• Ken Wilson
• Betty Wilson
• Gary Cowardin
• Michael Pitchford

Missing (3):
• Ted Bethune
• Bill Newman
• Matthew Roy

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann
• November’s board meeting minutes accepted after a brief discussion.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers
• Balance Summary (as of 11/17/2014): (as of 2/16/2015):
• General Fund: 9192.03 11004.73
• Observatory Fund: 202.21 244.35
• TOTAL: 9394.24 11249.08

• Checking Account: 4291.52 6142.77
• Savings Account: 2861.81 2862.03
• Certificate of Deposit: 2240.91 2244.28
• Pay Pal Acct: 0.00 0.00
• TOTAL: 9394.24 11249.08

At this reporting, the totals include the initial deposit and 9 monthly payments made by the construction company for usage of the RAS property.
After a brief discussion, the treasurer’s report was accepted by the board.

Observatory Report –
• An open house is scheduled for Saturday, February 28 at sunset.
• Randy performed some work to fix a thermal issue on the observatory roof
• Someone asked if there was a law about lighting around planetariums and observatories

Library Report given by Jim Browder (for Virginia)
• All is well at the Richmond Alarm Company.
• Book donation from Jim Petty’s collection was accepted, included club memorabilia and moon landing information.

Education / Outreach Report :
• Good participation at recent skywatches
• Betty Wilson is contact person for coordinating skywatch requests
• Numerous upcoming star parties
• Ken and Betty have plans underway to help a cub scout group work on their astronomy belt loop
• Casual skywatch planned at Pocahontas Middle School for May 2
• Skywatch is planned to occur in New Kent, but RAS will not be running it.
• Skywatches are being planned for Bryan Park, aim to be during 1st quarter moons.
• Moon celebration planned for Landing during next full moon.
• Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society (CHAOS) issponsoring the James River Star Party during the 3rd week of March. John Raymond will be attending and speaking too.
• The 2015 Metro Richmond STEM Fair will be held at Clover Hill High School on March 14. Who is available to accompany Terry Barker in awarding prizes for Astronomy projects.

Old Business
• No available time to discuss future goals with Belmead staff. Presently, both sides are interested in future plans with each other. We need to consider that equestrians also use Belmead on a regular basis.
• Thank you card was sent to RAS from Myron Wasuita for his gift from doing a guest presentation at a recent RAS meeting.
• RAS is planning on affixing a small plaque to a scope that was donated by Jim Petty.

New Business
• Astronomy Day 2015 – Saturday, April 25
o Day: SMV Rotunda
o Night: (weather permitting) open house at the observatory
o Board has nominated Matthew Roy to be coordinator of Astronomy Day; Action: JimBr will notify him
• Scope Donations – RAS was offered a C14 dobsonian telescope from a teacher at Johns Hopkins. Plans are to store this at Belmead after the building has been created. Since the telescope will be stored at Belmead, it will be reserved for member usage, and not for loaning to the public.
• Easement update – Bon Secours needs a gas laid across the driveway opening of the observatory. The lateness of the request make it appears there was bad planning on Bon Secours part. The proposal from RAS was presented to the construction crew, and includes a request for RAS to receive a monetary amount as an indemnity. Phil attended our meeting and stated that RAS has asked for this indemnity since RAS has no authority to negotiate with Bon Secours to protect us if the heirs question our motives. Action item: Phil will draw up a resolution for Jim Browder to represent us in this sensitive situation.
• We had a very interesting discussion of the relationship that RAS has with the building and the land. RAS owns the telescope, but only has a “temporary interest” in the land property. RAS does not own the land – the heirs own the land. To get rid of the land, the land will revert back to the heirs. Technically, RAS can walk away from the property and lose all rights to using it. RAS can retain the use of it as long as RAS uses it for astronomical purposes. If taxes are not paid, Chesterfield County can come after us for tax payment, as long as we are using the land. RAS owns the building and can remove and relocate the building, if they desire.
• Leslie Bochenski’s kidney transplant was successful. She should be home from the hospital in a few days. Justin is expected to stand in for Leslie while she is recovering from surgery.

• Meeting was adjourned at 8:03 pm.

Reminder
• Presentation months/meetings for remainder of 2015
o June 9 Jim Browder, President
o July 14 Bill Newman
o August 11 Chris McCann, Secretary
o August 17 (Board meeting)
o September 8 Jim Blowers, Treasurer
o October 13 David Medici
o November 10 Ken Wilson
o November 16 (Board meeting)
o December 8 Gary Cowardin



November 2014 Board Meeting minutes

Feb 15th, 2015 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting November 17, 2014

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:05 pm.

Attendees (11):
• Jim Browder, President
• Dave Medici, Vice President
• Jim Blowers, Treasurer
• Chris McCann, Secretary
• John Raymond, Observatory Director
• Ken Wilson
• Betty Wilson
• Bill Newman
• Gary Cowardin
• Matthew Roy
• Michael Pitchford

Missing (1):
• Ted Bethune

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann
• August’s board meeting minutes accepted after a brief discussion.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers
• Balance Summary (as of 8/18/2014): (as of 11/17/2014):
• General Fund: 8611.63 9192.03
• Observatory Fund: 187.45 202.21
• TOTAL: 8799.08 9394.24

• Checking Account: 3696.57 4291.52
• Savings Account: 2861.60 2861.81
• Certificate of Deposit: 2240.91 2240.91
• Pay Pal Acct: 0.00 0.00
• TOTAL: 8799.08 9394.24

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

Observatory Report
• Clean up duties planned for 1st weekend in December (Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th).
• Discussions about the lighting ordinance were made with builders
• Someone asked if there was a law about lighting around planetariums and observatories

Library Report given by Jim Browder (for Virginia)
• All is well at the Richmond Alarm Company.
• Storage capacities are reaching its limits.
• Before purchasing new cabinets, think about how to thin out some of the volume of books. Book sale at future meeting? Book donation to a group? We need to “pump down the volume”.
• A group is needed to evaluate which books can go, especially old books and textbooks

Education / Outreach Report :
• Good participation at recent skywatches
• Betty Wilson is contact person for coordinating skywatch requests
• Skywatch at Clover Hill for the Clover Hill Astronomy Club – Friday, November 21 at 5:30 pm. The President of the club is Fernando Pasquale, an RAS member. The skywatch is presently planned for Clover Hill, but could be moved to Swift Creek Elementary. Future email if plans are changed.
• Numerous upcoming star parties
• John Raymond hosted an Imaging workshop at the Staunton River Star Party. There were several good speakers, and the workshop was considered a big success, causing great conversation at Staunton River. (Possible rebroadcast on website ???)
• VAAS – probably not this year. Planning was not successful and not done early enough. There are 6 Astronomical Societies that host VAAS on a rotating basis. RAS hosted it in 2006 and 2012. Heads-up for 2018.
• Belmead skywatch being planned for Saturday, December 13.

Old Business
• Equipment inventory deployed
o 2 Handouts:
 to display the future link (“RAS equipment for loan”) on the RAS home page,
 to display the beginning portion of the inventory list
• List of eligible equipment to be loaned can be found at http://richastro.org/index.php/category/ras_equipment/
• John Raymond is the contact person to handle the loaned out equipment.
• Question – Does RAS need a password protected site to prevent anyone from accessing our inventory?
• Question – Do we advertise the location of the equipment? No
• Reviewed process of loaning out RAS equipment:
o Member must understand and accept the procedure listed in Ken’s draft on how to use the equipment.
o Training must be given, if necessary
o Deposit will be required on expensive equipment.
o Each loan situation will be handled on a one-by-one basis, if there is a concern about the person checking out equipment.
• ACTION item – Adding the link to the guidelines and to the written agreement
• Continued discussion of draft proposal for Belmead storage/observing facility
o Final draft is not ready yet.
o There are some issues to resolve, including gate access to Belmead. An idea to consider – RAS adding another lock to the chain, with selected key holders. Should it be tied to observatory members?
o Insurance costs on the equipment and on Belmead need to be re-visited.

New Business
• Jim Petty, a longtime RAS member, passed away recently. Jim Browder attended the memorial service for RAS. Jim Petty had created a scrapbook on several past Astronomy Days, starting from “forever ago”. Jim also donated an 8” telescope to RAS about a year ago. A motion was made to create and attach a brass plaque to that telescope, stating something similar to “Jim Petty memorial telescope”. The motion was passed to create the plaque and to notify the family.
• SCC corporation report filed – Phil Roberts took care of this annual task
• Welcome 2015 board members – 11 of 12 board members for 2015 were present.
Thanks to David Medici for heading up the Board Selection Committee.
• Election of 2015 RAS officers
o President – Jim Browder
o Vice-President – Matthew Roy
o Secretary – Chris McCann
o Treasurer – Jim Blowers
o Observatory Director – John Raymond
• Selection of presentation months – list of assigned meetings and board meetings
o January 13 Ted Bethune
o February 10 Matthew Roy, Vice President
o February 16 (Board meeting)
o March 10 Betty Wilson
o April 14 John Raymond, Observatory Director
o May 12 Michael Pitchford
o May 18 (Board meeting)
o June 9 Jim Browder, President
o July 14 Bill Newman
o August 11 Chris McCann, Secretary
o August 17 (Board meeting)
o September 8 Jim Blowers, Treasurer
o October 13 David Medici
o November 10 Ken Wilson
o November 16 (Board meeting)
o December 8 Gary Cowardin

• There are some ‘outside’ speakers that may be interested in speaker during your month. Please invite them early so they have time to plan. Speakers from outside of the area may be eligible to receive housing for 1 night.
• A motion was made to send Myron a token gift. The board passed the motion to send him $25 and a $10 gift card to the RAS café.

Next Meeting Date – February 16 (When asked about this day being President’s Day, no one commented against having the meeting on this evening).

• Meeting was adjourned at 8:14 pm.



August 2014 Board Meeting Minutes

Nov 15th, 2014 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting August 18, 2014

 

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:01 pm.

 

Attendees (7):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • John Raymond, Observatory Director
  • Ken Wilson
  • Betty Wilson
  • Prashant Reddy

 

Guest (1):

  • Randy Tatum

 

Missing (4):

  • Dave Medici, Vice President
  • Bill Newman
  • Gary Cowardin
  • David Walton

 

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • May’s board meeting minutes were discussed and accepted with minor correction.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary         (as of 5/19/2014):               (as of 8/18/2014):
  • General Fund:                       7335.07                               8611.63
  • Observatory Fund:                   197.93                                 187.45
  • TOTAL:                                 7533.00                             8799.08
  • Checking Account:               2434.60                             3696.57
  • Savings Account:                 2861.39                             2861.60
  • Certificate of Deposit:           2237.01                             2240.91
  • Pay Pal Acct:                               0.00                                    0.00
  • TOTAL:                                 7533.00                               8799.08

 

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

There are 64 members who have paid dues.

 

Observatory Report –

  • Discussed grass cutting duties.
  • Clean up duties planned in November.
  • No damage to building, but Randy reports the front gate has a dent in it.

 

Library Report given by Jim Browder (for Virginia)

  • All is well at the Richmond Alarm Company.
  • Cabinets are almost full.
  • Question about having a possible book sale at a future meeting, or donate to other groups
  • A group is needed to evaluate which books can go, especially old books and textbooks

 

Education / Outreach Report :

(1) Good participation at recent skywatches

(2) Numerous upcoming star parties

  • Belmead
  • Science Museum of Virginia
  • Almost Heaven Star Party at Spruce Knob
  • Powhatan State Park – hazy; clear and pretty good the other time
  • VAAS 2014
  • ECVAR 2014
  • NOVAC Annual Star Gaze
  • Camp Phoenix Skywatch
  • Staunton River Star Party
  • Scotchtown Skywatch in Ashland
  • DelMarVa
  • East Coast Star Party

(3) Imaging workshop at Staunton River Star Party – John is planning on having an image workshop

(4) Additional upcoming outreach contact – John Raymond

 

Old Business

(1) Discussion of equipment inventory

  • Dave Walton is having significant health issues
  • John Raymond has been appointed to take over the inventory control
  • Need to inventory the observatory.

(2) Continued discussion of draft proposal for Belmead storage/observing facility

  • Due to the length of the handout, the handout and discussion points will be addressed in the minutes after the end of the agenda (after New Business). This will not be a quick decision, but will need several months to arrive at a conclusion. Consider the most efficient process to satisfy most of our concerns. Jim Browder did a great job creating the handout after much research and thought.

 

New Business

(1) Appointment of Board member nominating committee chairman – Dave Medici

(2) Fall Picnic Date?

  • Consider observing session and picnic on one of the following:
    October 18 , November 1, November 22
  • Based on the lunar phase and expected temperature, October 18 was selected.
  • Dave Medici and Bill Newman were selected to be picnic coordinators

(3) Brief discussion on security of the Ragland observatory.

  • It was decided to delay the decision about putting a camera on the observatory.       The present concern is about later when no one else is around on a nearly daily basis.
  • Is there an existing camera in the nearby area?
    • Will the Hospice center have a 24-hour camera? If so, will it be partially aimed towards the observatory?
    • Are there cameras on the mall?
    • Are there cameras on the church?
    • Can RAS help fund a security camera if it is aimed at the observatory?
  • How will we replace the telescope if we had to? Consider historic value and collector’s value.
  • A motion was made to review the insurance and to inventory the contents of the observatory.       Motion passed as action item for JohnR.

 

 


Contents of a handout that addressed our interest in Belmead storage/observing

(All comments and questions will be listed afterwards, in efforts to keep the contents as they were presented.)

 

Board members:

Based on some additional price quotes for storage buildings, follow-up discussions with Belmead representatives (Francis Emma, Inc. is actually the organization name — I use “Belmead” as shorthand) I have updated my proposed plan for an observing facility at Belmead. This is presented as a proposal that combines several individual actions that, if we choose to undertake them, would occur over the course of this year and 2015. With each part of the plan, I have tried to make pertinent notes.

Questions and answers regarding relevant questions/issues that have been mentioned to me are listed following the summary of the plan along with my summary financial analysis. Financial details and draft equipment inventory are attached for reference. I would ask Jim Blowers to pay particular attention to my financial analysis to assess whether he agrees with my conclusions. Note that the financial analysis was done earlier in the summer, but should still be valid as far as its conclusions are concerned.

My apologies for the length of this e-mail, but I want to make sure we have as many issues covered as possible so that we have a common understanding to the extent possible.

 

The financial analysis is attached.

 

Regards,

Jim

 

 

Background

In my opinion, RAS has three strategic needs regarding member observing resources and outreach:

  1. Plan for storage/deployment of donated telescopes: We have over time collected a fair amount of equipment and there are several options for making the best use of the equipment.
  2. Plan for one or more member observing site(s) The Powhatan Wildlife Management Area remains a usable site, but is less than desirable because of its public access which allows for non observers passing through the site with lights and for uncertain reasons. RAS needs alternative sites. We have been working with Belmead to establish such a site and with Powhatan State Park to develop a relationship that might facilitate use of such sites in the future.
  3. Plan for the existing Ragland observatory: The Ragland Observatory has served RAS members for a number of decades. Members have done an absolutely extraordinary job of making the best possible use of the facility even as development has grown around it. The site is still used for solar observing and for occasional open house events for lunar and planetary observing. It also has a certain historical value to RAS. Given the current use of the observatory, we should review the benefits of continuing its operation and plan for its ongoing use or develop a plan and schedule for transfer/sale of the property at some point after expiration of the contract for its use by the adjacent construction activity.

 

 

Draft Plan

 

  • Establish a storage facility at Belmead, contingent upon successful development of a use agreement. Belmead (Francis Emma, Inc.) has expressed support for the idea. Key elements of the draft proposal:
    1. Homemade Dob, donated by Don McAfee
    2. Large refractor, donated by Don McAfee
  1. Install a wood-frame, vinyl-sided 10×20 or 12×22 building with interior radiant barrier, entrance ramp and double doors.
  2. A manufactured portable wooden building can be obtained locally; can be delivered and installed as a package with a ramp. This type of portable structure can be moved in the future if another site is determined to be more appropriate or if otherwise desired.
  3. Place the storage facility adjacent to the mansion parking area on the side of the parking lot farthest from the mansion to avoid visually impacting the view of the mansion.
  4. Power the facility with a solar/battery electric system with battery charge controller capable of connecting to multiple solar panels and batteries. Limit the needed capacity to interior LED lighting, laptop/telescope operation and possibly a wireless router. Purchase of the solar battery system could be deferred until sometime after the initial building installation if preferred.
  5. Store the following scopes at the facility; leave scopes generally assembled and stored on dollies such that they can be readily deployed for observing events:
  • Miscellaneous small reflectors
  1. 12” SCT donated by Don McAfee
  1. In addition to storage, use the facility as a warm-room. Consider placing a propane space heater at the facility.
  2. Based on the attached financial analysis, RAS can afford from its operating budget, due to accumulated funds and due to the income from our lease agreement for the observatory properly, a portable structure 10×20 or 12×22 in size. The 10×20 size does not require a building permit – Belmead has expressed a slight preference for this size as it requires no permit.

 

  • Establish an undeveloped site on the Belmead property away from the mansion.
    1. A tentative site has been scoped out which would require clearing of brush, removal of one small tree. It would be necessary to obtain estimates for work required to clear and gravel the site. Consider funding by contributions and/or grant funding.
    2. Clear the site of brush.
    3. Place gravel on the site sufficient to allow parking of approximately 10 cars with observing space.
  • Consider adding a roll-off roof observatory at the remote site, to be funded by contributions or small grants.
    1. The roll-off roof structure could be made portable.
    2. The roll-off structure could be constructed by design as a roll-off or adapted from a purchased storage building.

 

Summary Proposed Plan of Action and Funding Proposal:

(contingent upon mutual agreement between RAS and Belmead)

  1. Purchase a portable 10×20 wood frame structure with ramp from either Forest View in Powhatan or Virginia Custom Buildings for up to $3800. Place the structure adjacent to the Belmead mansion parking lot. Fund purchase from RAS operating budget.
  2. Agree to pay Belmead a nominal amount for the member use component of the arrangement. Suggest perhaps $300/year. Agree to support public outreach events at least quarterly with RAS having use of the facility at any time as long as it does not interfere with a large scheduled event at Belmead.
  3. Develop a specific plan for powering the facility with a solar panel/battery system. Defer Board decision on funding and purchase of the solar equipment. Tentatively plan to fund solar equipment purchase from RAS operating budget.
  4. Use the facility for periodic outreach events at Belmead and member observing.
  5. Develop a plan for establishing an open (cleared and graveled) lot at a location on the Belmead property, but at a more remote site away from the mansion. Defer Board decision on funding until plan developed.
  6. Develop a plan for establishing a roll-off observatory at the remote site, Defer Board decision on funding and purchase of the observatory until plan developed. Consider funding with contributions and/or a small grant.
  7. Develop a near-term plan for the existing observatory given current and anticipated use.

 

Questions / Issues with preliminary answers:

What would be the overall goal of this project?

The overall goal would be to establish a dark sky site and/or facility that could be used by RAS members for serious observing and would be used as an educational resource for Belmead with assistance by RAS members.  In developing plans for the site/facility, it is extremely important to ensure to every extent possible that the relationship is mutually beneficial and that neither Belmead or RAS are unduly burdened and that use of the facility is consistent with the missions of the two organizations.

Is the sky at Belmead dark enough?

The sky darkness would approximate Powhatan Wildlife Management Area which is reasonably dark for a site within a moderate distance to the Richmond urban area. Belmead is somewhat closer to the prisons by the James River, but the Richmond light dome and the prison light domes are in the same general direction. It is reasonable to assume that viewing to the eastern horizon would be impeded by either one.

Would ambient/local lighting present a problem?

Belmead is a 2200-acre property, much of which has been placed in a conservation easement. This easement reduces or eliminates property taxes as long as the property remains undeveloped and is a strong deterrent to future development. This fact makes local ambient light likely to be a minimal issue for a number of years to come.

If a long-term observing site were located near the mansion, there would be some ambient light from the mansion, which can likely be minimized with opaque window shades. Parking area lights can be turned off with an outdoor switch.

If a special event were scheduled at the mansion, ambient lighting would impact or prevent observing on those occasions. Observing would need to be rescheduled or delayed until after the end of the event, If the observing site were located near the mansion, special events would need to take priority over observing events.

Is Belmead a sufficiently convenient location?

Belmead is 48 minutes I 40 miles from the center of Richmond / State Capitol area. It is roughly as convenient as the Powhatan Wildlife Management area. For members / guests in Richmond, western Henrico, Chesterfield, Hanover, Powhatan and Goochland, it is a reasonably convenient site, given the need to be away from the Richmond light dome. It is a significantly less convenient site for members traveling from east of Richmond City.

Is Belmead a sufficiently secure location?

Belmead is a privately owned property with staff living on the property. A riding club uses parts of the property regularly and parts of the property are currently farmed. The property is gated, although the gate entrance is not staffed. it is generally locked after hours in the evening with padlocks.

Since Belmead is privately owned with staff in residence, it is reasonable to expect that it is acceptably secure. However, if a facility were located far from the mansion area, security would be reduced. It is possible, but has not yet been discussed with Belmead, that an internet connection could be established to monitor the facility remotely.

 

Would the operators of Belmead allow sufficient access to RAS members and guests?

Belmead has indicated that RAS is very welcome to observe from the Belmead property. In order to ensure that observing would be as convenient and as productive as possible, it would be important to make arrangements for RAS to have impromptu observing events as well as scheduled events. This ability to have impromptu events would be necessary in order to take advantage of good weather opportunities and member availability.

Although not yet discussed with Belmead, it would be possible to place additional locks on main gate and on the parking area lighting control box to allow RAS member access. It would likely be necessary to designate specific RAS members to be key holders. It may be necessary for key holders to be present during observing sessions.

Is a physical facility/building needed?

A physical facility, building or observatory would not be required, but would be helpful to store equipment currently in the RAS inventory and which we may receive through future donations. For the equipment to be used most effectively, it would be helpful for the equipment to be stored at the observing site so that it could be deployed relatively quickly with a minimum of transport distance.

Depending on the size/capability of such a facility, it might provide a warming area, observer napping area or a resource for future remote observing.

There are two existing storage options available at Belmead: One in a classroom space external to the mansion and another below the old bandstand near the mansion. The storage space in the external classroom is generally not locked and is used by other parties. The space below the bandstand is below the level of the parking area and would present a significant challenge to deploying telescope equipment stored in this area to a location where it could be used. For these reasons, neither existing storage location is considered usable.

 

Why not place the storage facility at the remote observing site?

One of the primary purposes of the storage facility would be to house telescopes used for general member use and for outreach. Because public outreach is best hosted where cars and visitors can be safely managed, a location near the mansion where the parking lot and indoor facilities can be used is the most logical choice. Placing the storage facility near the mansion does not prohibit establishing a separate site/facility at a more remote site on the Belmead property primarily for member use.

What sort/how large a facility would be useful?

Initially, a simple 10×20 or 12×22 wood-frame storage building that can be purchased in the area, transported to the Belmead site and installed would provide the minimum space/capability requirements to store RAS equipment and make it readily deployable at a dark sky site. A local building permit is required for the 12×22 size facility as it is over 200 square feet.

As more equipment is donated to RAS or as members wish to have more dark sky site capabilities or amenities, the facility could be expanded to the extent agreeable to Belmead.

A wood-frame storage facility would be moveable to another location in the future, if a more desirable location were selected for the future. A moveable wood-frame structure could also be sold if it were decided to eliminate the site altogether.

Should we consider purchasing a storage building kit (such as available from Lowes or Home Depot) and constructing it by members?

Using a kit of the type available at retail stores would likely save money but would require coordination of members to construct the building. The structure may not be as strong or durable as a manufacture building. For example, some kit structures do not have vertical studs placed as closely as manufactured buildings, resulting in less strength and less portability.

Would users of the facility have access to Belmead’s restroom facilities?

Belmead is in the process of constructing outdoor restroom facilities behind the external classroom near the mansion. Based on current experience, it is reasonable to expect that Belmead would allow users of the observing facility to use the facilities during hours when the indoor facilities are not available.

If an observing facility were constructed, would plumbing and septic service be needed for the facility?

It is not expected that plumbing and septic system would be required initially for the observing facility. At some point in the future, it might represent an additional convenience that would enhance the observing experience. Although an added convenience, it is not expected to ever be an absolute requirement.

Would utility services telephone/electricity/internet connection be needed for the facility?

It is not expected that utility services would be required for the facility. However, it would be a significant convenience to at least have battery power sufficient to operate interior LED lighting with sufficient supplementary power to operate telescope equipment and a few laptop computers. Wireless internet router operation would also be an added convenience if Belmead agreed to allow RAS members to connect to the internet and if the RAS facility location were sufficiently close to make the connection.

Because of the potential expense of connecting utility-electricity to a facility and consistent with Belmead’s mission to practice and educate about environmental stewardship, installation of a solar-recharged battery system may be an appropriate option. As long as the capability is limited to interior LED lighting and laptop/telescope operation requirements, a light-duty solar/battery system would likely suffice. If greater capability were desired, additional electrical capacity may be needed. If a solar/battery system were installed, consideration should be given to a scalable system that could accommodate additional solar panels and batteries.

How would we pay for the facility?

Based on local building price quotes, it would be possible to purchase a wood-frame building that would minimally serve RAS needs for $3743 – $4754, including delivery, installation, permitting and ramp installation. It is possible that a lower price could be obtained with further review, but this range is based on actual quotes and likely to accurately represent market prices.

A light-duty solar power system could add $925 by my estimate, but could be purchased later depending upon available financing at the time. Based on an analysis of our current cash reserves and anticipated lease income, RAS could afford $4588 in the near term with some margin for safety. A reasonable plan would therefore be to use our cash reserves to purchase the facility, allowing the anticipated lease income to partially replenish our reserves. It may be advisable to fund future expansions of the facility that may be contemplated with grants or specific contributions.

 

What ongoing compensation would be required to Belmead?

Belmead views an important part of their mission to be education.  To the extent that RAS is willing to host and staff periodic educational observing events and to fund construction and maintenance of the facility, Belmead may not require compensation at all.  If Belmead does require compensation, an ongoing lease payment or contribution to the cost of internet service (if RAS uses it) may be appropriate.  This issue has not yet been discussed with Belmead.

What ongoing facility maintenance would be required?

Possibly grass-trimming in the immediate area, washing of the vinyl siding, cleaning, maintenance of the electrical system and lighting.  Maintenance would be similar to the existing Ragland observatory with the exception of a solar/battery system which would be somewhat different than a utility-supplied system.

 

 

Affordability
Total cash reserves as of May 2014 $7,533.00
Income anticipated from obs lease payment $3,600.00
Average annual expenses (current) $1,958.00
Can afford to spend
(Assuming that half of cash reserves after deducting full annual expense and adding anticipated lease income are available to spend) $4,587.50
[(Reserves) – (annual expenses) + (lease income)] x .50
Low Building Cost High Building Cost
Entry cost of storage building $3,743.00 $4,754.00
Deferrable expenses (optional or deferrable to later date, solar power system) $925.00 $925.00
Total $4,668.00 $5,679.00
Can afford $4,587.50 $4,587.50
Conclusion
Can afford either of the following
(1) Purchase 10×20 building at low cost and begin optional/deferrable work right away
(2) Purchase 12×22 building at high cost and defer optional work until later

 

 

 

Questions and concerns discussed at the Board meeting

Briefly RAS has 3 needs to discuss and consider:

  • Storage and deployment of donated telescopes
  • Plans for 1 or more new dark sky observing sites
  • Plans for the existing Ragland observatory.

 

In general, when considering the solution for each of these goals, the following need to be considered:

  • Security
  • Usage
  • Expenses
  • Accessibility

 

(1) An inventory of RAS equipment was reviewed. Several items are considered to be defective and not restorable due to mold.

The following need to add to the inventory list:

  • Randy Tatum has possession of a Hydrogen-alpha filter and an energy rejection filter unique to the Ragland telescope.
  • Prashant has the bottle rocket launcher used on Astronomy Day.

 

(2) We need to consider having other night sky viewing sites and handling the location of our equipment.

At this time, our 2 best areas to consider are Powhatan Wildlife Management Area and Belmead, with the later being the better of the 2 locations. No other site has been ruled out, and new sites will be considered if there is interest from the Board.

 

(3) The board discussed what needs to be done to store some of the RAS equipment at Belmead.

  • Will we need to purchase storage shed? Or can we use an interior room for storage? Is there a concern about security at the location? Can we possibly set up a pier at Belmead?
  • RAS should consider 2 different locations at Belmead – a public location near the mansion and a private location in a remote mowed field or a gravel area.       There are no plans to make this a permanent structure.
  • We reviewed a handout of cost and size information on several manufactured structures for use as storage facilities at Belmead.
  • Do we need a porta-potty in the private viewing area? Consider cost and maintenance issues.
  • Consider asking for an installation of dual lighting system for night vision and observing reasons.
  • Ken has been asked to look at the proposed equipment for storage (Part (1)-E of the drafted plans) at Belmead, if we decided to take that route.
  • If RAS does go ahead with the storage of equipment at Belmead, we need to continue our process of scheduling all of our events – no unannounced or last minute visits.
  • RAS liability insurance will be reviewed and presented to Belmead. What does it cover? Fire? Injury? Damage?
  • Consider how extreme weather conditions will affect the equipment? Remember there may be no access to equipment with snow on the ground.
  • Consider what we need to compensate Belmead for? Internet usage, electrical costs, . . .

 

Another possible option for RAS is to purchase their own private land and consider the same building and storage options. Electricity and internet may not be easily available. Possible use of solar power? Use of ‘hot spots’ through phones.

 

A motion was made and passed by the board to continue discussion and consider all available options concerning our interest with Belmead.

 

 

Next Meeting Date – November 17

 

  • Meeting was adjourned at 8:45 pm.

 

 

 



May 2014 Board Meeting minutes

Aug 14th, 2014 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting May 19, 2014

 

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:05 pm.

 

Attendees (10):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • Dave Medici, Vice President
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • John Raymond, Observatory Director
  • Ken Wilson
  • Betty Wilson
  • Prashant Reddy
  • Bill Newman
  • Gary Cowardin

 

Missing (1):

  • David Walton

 

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • February’s board meeting minutes were discussed and accepted after minor changes.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary         (as of 2/17/2014):               (as of 5/19/2014):
  • General Fund:                       7566.09                               7335.07
  • Observatory Fund:                   216.08                                 197.93
  • TOTAL:                                7782.17                             7533.00
  • Checking Account:               2683.84                             2434.60
  • Savings Account:                 2861.32                             2861.39
  • Certificate of Deposit:          2237.01                             2237.01
  • Pay Pal Acct:                               0.00                                    0.00
  • TOTAL:                                 7782.17                               7533.00

 

After a brief discussion, the treasurer’s report was accepted by the board. It was discussed that the RAS fiscal year is from October to September.

There are 52 members who have paid dues. Twelve (13) are observatory members.

 

Observatory Report – later in meeting and notes

 

Library Report given by Jim Browder (for Virginia)

  • All is well at the Richmond Alarm Company.
  • Cabinets are almost full. We may consider purchasing another book case.

 

Education / Outreach Report :

Events (between mid-February and mid-May) at

  • SMV – relatively well, good attendance, good telescope coverage
  • Belmead – 1 really good night, “need weather to be more cooperative”; next event will be June 28
  • Westover Hills Library – very interested crowd
  • Astronomy Day – good turnout and good RAS coverage; thanks to Prashant – good planning
  • Powhatan State Park – 6 very enthusiastic visitors; next event will be June 28, expecting 150 campers
  • Additional upcoming outreach contact – John Raymond

 

Old Business

  • Launch from Wallops Island presently scheduled for June 10, to take supplies to ISS

 

New Business

  • Discussion about storing some of the RAS equipment at Belmead. Will we need to purchase storage shed? Or storage in an interior room? Is there a concern about security at the location? It sounds like “lots of promise” for this endeavor. Possibly set up a pier at Belmead. Jim Browder is going to discuss the options with the personnel at Belmead.
  • 501(c)3 filing made to the IRS (declaring less than $50,000 gross revenue)
  • Astronomical League Ballot – RAS unanimously voted to support John Jardine Goss for President (2014-2016) and William Bogardus for Vice-President (2014-2016). Both candidates were unopposed for their office. Ballot was mailed May 20.
  • VAAS will be in Norfolk/Chesapeake this fall. Plans and date TBD.
  • Construction on the hospice center (expected to continue till May 2015) has begun adjacent to the observatory property and the construction company has asked to use/lease RAS observatory property for storage of equipment and construction trailers. As of the time of this meeting, we did not yet have a specific proposal from the company. A lease agreement will be drafted which Phil Roberts will review and clean-up for legal precision. Phil has agreed to help wherever he could. Our insurance agency has also been contacted to determine what ramifications there are concerning our insurance. A response has not yet been received.

The board had a very involved hour-long pro/con discussion, allowing all board members to have an opportunity to voice their opinions, concerns, and questions. Our decision to accept the offer (including compensation) will be based upon a vote within a few days after our board discussion.

Discussion points:

  • RAS must allow the construction crew to ‘double lock’ our security chain.
  • Insurance agent advised RAS that no changes are needed to our policy, but will need proof of insurance from the construction company.
  • RAS will ask for a monthly $500 fee. Will this affect our 501(c)3? It should not since we will not top our maximum revenue limit.
  • RAS will agree that individual members cannot personally benefit if any agreement is made.
  • The plan is to allow trailers to park on the observatory property.   Discussion items (with no names):
  • Concern about dust and dirt entering the observatory. It is not an air tight building.
  • Concern about possible cracking of foundation and building structure due to motion of heavy equipment.
  • The cable to the roof may be a hazard to people on site.
  • Driveway must be left unblocked. RAS members must always be allowed access to building.
  • Flow of rainwater may be affected due to change of ground slope.
  • Concrete entrance ramp may be damaged, and must be fixed if damaged
  • Should we require them to use back entrance only?
  • We need agreement for repairing land or fence if there is any damage.
  • Can we ask for possible future improvements to the land after the equipment is eventually removed?
  • Make sure expectations of both parties are clear and understood.
  • This sounds like a “rush job”, not allowing us much time to consider all issues.
  • We should not allow heavy equipment from traveling through the fenced-in area on a daily basis.
  • RAS should only allow equipment that fits through gate. RAS should require that no alterations to be done to fence or gate, except to fix damages.
  • Photos need to be taken of fences, gates, road, building, and land before any equipment are allowed access to RAS property.
  • Allow the construction company to use lot as long as the RAS property is in equal or improved conditions when they leave RAS property.
  • RAS has the right to evict the construction company if they are uncooperative with agreements.
  • Consider what actions RAS may wish to take if the construction company makes an offer to purchase the land. Can we agree to any type of sale offer?

 

  • A motion was made to proceed with negotiations until we get an offer. Updates to the final draft and the vote will be made through email in the near future. Motion voted on and passed.

 

  • Official voting record whether to accept or reject the draft agreement:

Ken Wilson – accept

Betty Wilson – accept

John Raymond – accept

David Medici – accept

Jim Blowers – reject

David Walton – accept

Bill Newman – accept

Chris McCann – accept

Prashant Reddy – accept

Gary Cowardin – reject

Jim Browder – no vote

 

Next Board meeting will be Monday, August 18, 2014 at Extra Billy’s at 7pm. If you want to come early for dinner, come by at 6pm.  

 

  • Meeting was adjourned at 8:45 pm.


February 2014 Board Meeting minutes

May 13th, 2014 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting February 17, 2014

 

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:02 pm.

 

Attendees (11):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • John Raymond, Observatory Director
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • Ken Wilson
  • Betty Wilson
  • Prashant Reddy
  • Bill Newman
  • Gary Cowardin
  • Dave Medici, Vice-President

 Missing (1):

  • David Walton

  

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • November’s board meeting minutes were discussed and accepted. The brief discussion pertained to having a skywatch at the “Center of the Universe”. The concerns were about light pollution and drunken people around the scopes. It was suggested that we have a few scopes (but not ‘from RAS’) and experiment with the situation.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary         (as of 11/18/2013):               (as of 2/17/2014):
  • General Fund:                       6606.56                               7566.09
  • Observatory Fund:                   191.43                                 216.08
  • TOTAL:                                 6797.99                               7782.17
  • Checking Account:               1672.53                             2683.84
  • Savings Account:                 2861.25                            2861.32
  • Certificate of Deposit:           2234.21                            2237.01
  • Pay Pal Acct:                               0.00                                   0.00
  • TOTAL:                                 6767.99                               7782.17

 

After a brief discussion, the treasurer’s report was accepted by the board. There was a suggestion during the discussion that RAS may need to put an end-of-year deadline on membership renewal.

There are 36 members who have paid dues, including 7 new members. Twelve (12) are observatory members.

 

Observatory Report given byJohn Raymond

  • There were ten (10) attendees at the recent open house. The weather started as cloudy, but cleared by sunset. Seeing was ‘absolutely good’ and became ‘sharp’ at other times.
  • Jupiter, the Moon, and M42 were visible.
  • Grass cutting volunteers are needed
  • Dumpster status: still there, but out of way of the gate. Mattresses were there recently, but were taken away.
  • There is a dead tree near the back fence – not in danger of falling.
  • Open house planned for Saturday, March 8. there should be a 1st quarter moon at that time.

 

Library Report given by Jim Browder (for Virginia)

  • There are no problems at the Richmond Alarm Company.
  • Cabinets are almost full. We need to consider purchasing another book case. Suggestions were made to check at places like Hull Street Outlet and on Craig’s list.
  • Another suggestion is to thin out the books such as older out-of-date textbooks, but not collector’s items. Virginia and a few others need to be consulted before this can be done.
  • Consider purchasing a digital version of Sky & Telescope to replace the collection of magazines. Randy needs to be included in this decision, due to books and magazines being kept in the observatory.

 

Education Report (Jim Browder) :

  • RAS Ragland Observatory open house scheduled for Saturday, March 8.
  • Thomas Jefferson High School Skywatch, Tuesday, March 18, 6:30 – 8:30 PM: Thomas Jefferson high school is having an astronomy night in conjunction with a PTSA meeting and RAS has been asked to help with a skywatch.
  • Skywatch at Caroline Middle School, scheduled for Wednesday, April 2. RAS attended it last time, but should we ask Rappahannock Astronomy Club to handle these requests going forwards?
  • Additional upcoming outreach — John Raymond
  • Powhatan State Park has skywatches scheduled for May 17, and June 28.
  • John is waiting to hear back from “Friends of Bryan Park” after suggesting dates to them.
  • Anna Julia Cooper School: There was a discussion about funding up to 25 students (and their immediate family) for admission into a LiveSky presentation. Motion passed.
  • Monthly SMV skywatches
  • Where are permits needed for public skywatches, for example, at state parks?
  • Does anyone still go to Saylor’s Creek, Twin Lakes, or Malvern Hill?

 

 

Old Business

 

New Business

  • Update on new digital projector / IMAX dome preview. RAS will be given a preview of the new projection system at the March 11 meeting. Public grand opening is planned for March 15.
  • Recent donations from Don McAfee (former RAS member who has moved to Washington state):
    • LXD-55 8-inch
    • LX-200 10-inch w/wedge
    • Meade eyepieces
    • Dobsonian — homemade 10-inch
    • Refractor — old — approx. 4-inch
    • Refractor — old dept. store scope
    • Video modules
    • Film cameras
    • Two telescope dollies
    • One hand truck telescope transport
    • Miscellaneous accessories
  • John Raymond suggested 3 options: selling some of the equipment, donating it, or allowing it to be used on a long term loan.
  • A suggestion was made to possibly store some of the equipment at Belmead – in pods, a storage shed, or in an interior room. Can we set up a pier at Belmead?
  • Jim Browder was going to discuss the options with the personnel at Belmead.

 

o       RAS also has the SMV-donated 8-inch Celestron SCT with wedge (no motors)

 

Equipment Storage Discussion

o       Storage is okay at Jim Browder’s house and RAS observatory (to the extent possible);

o       Equipment availability is an issue; storage is not highest and best use of equipment.

 

 

Next Board meeting will be Monday, May 19, 2014 at Extra Billy’s at 7pm. If you want to come early for dinner, come by at 6pm.  

 

  • Meeting was adjourned at 8:52 pm.


November 2013 Board Meeting minutes

Feb 10th, 2014 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting November 18, 2013

 

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:01 pm.

 

Attendees (11):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • David Walton
  • Ken Wilson
  • Betty Wilson
  • Prashant Reddy
  • Bill Newman
  • Gary Cowardin
  • Dave Medici
  • Randy Tatum

 

Missing (1):

  • John Raymond, Vice-President

 

 

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • August’s board meeting minutes were discussed and accepted.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary         (as of  8/19/2013):                (as of  11/18/2013):
  • General Fund:                        6951.37                               6606.56
  • Observatory Fund:                   149.29                                 191.43
  • TOTAL:                                 7100.66                               6797.99
  • Checking Account:                2005.25                               1672.53
  • Savings Account:                   2861.20                               2861.25
  • Certificate of Deposit:            2234.21                              2234.21
  • Pay Pal Acct:                                0.00                                    0.00
  • TOTAL:                                 7100.66                               6767.99

 

Question was asked about the $291.91 amount spent towards picnic.  It was announced that $200.00 of the amount is a voluntary donation to Belmead, while the remaining $91.91 was paid towards meats and products used at the picnic (at Belmead).

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

 

Observatory Report given by Jim Browder (from John Raymond)

  • No issues of note
  • Grass maintenance and upkeep were completed until the Spring.
  • Dumpster status: out of way of the gate
  • Big branch hanging over the fence

 

Education Report (Jim Browder) :

  • Numerous outreach events and Skywatches
  • VAAS 2013 – Northern Virginia (NoVa) did a nice job, meetings in tent, the day was a combination of VAAS and 1 of their annual skywatch events, good speakers, large collections of over 70 telescopes at the VAAS skywatch.
  • CampPhoenix for cancer survivors – clouded out
  • CampPhoenix for girl scouts – clouds moved in during presentation, but scouts saw major north sky constellations, and a few ‘shooting stars’.  Afterwards, a few of us briefly saw ISS pass over.
  • Fall Picnic – at Belmead, wonderful facility managed by a non-profit organization, good sky but clouded out during evening
  • Scotchtown – clouded out
  • L C Bird – successful while skies were cleared (clouded out later), observation area behind school is OK to use, Administration wants RAS back
  • SMV skywatches
  • Woodlake – good and interested crowds

 

 

Library Report given by Jim Browder (for Virginia)

  • There are no problems at the Richmond Alarm Company.

 

Other Reports:

  • Ken Wilson was interviewed by Charles Fishburne about Comet ISON
  • SCC report in process by Phil Roberts – SCC dues of $25 have been paid
  • SMV planetarium having new Digistar system and ceiling installed; unavailable January and February; effects on SMV skywatch
  • SMV planetarium director
  • IRS 501c3 filing due in Spring by May 15, 2014

 

Old Business:

  • Equipment inventory – on going

 

New Business (some of these were mentioned for future discussion):

  • Upcoming meetings with SMV – suggestions or ideas
  • Astronomy Day – “Bringing Astronomy to the People” – May 10, 2014 –
    • RAS will request SMV to push and strongly advertise Astronomy Day
    • RAS are not SMV volunteers – allow RAS to decide our own activities
    • RAS will request SMV to promote and support skywatches more
    • Request for RAS weblink to be added onto SMV website.
    • Investigate the possibility of RAS becoming active in (Wednesday) Lunch Break Science talks, possibly presenting monthly meeting topics
    • Offer literature to public
    • Provide attractive and comfortable family environment to bring people back to Astronomy Day
    • Refreshments
  • SMV skywatches for January and February will be held, but there will be no LiveSky presentations prior to our skywatch.  Be prepared to have telescopes available a little earlier then usual, for the public arriving at the normal SkyLive times.
  • Bill Newman presented a financial quote from a family member to perform ground maintenance and improvement at the observatory.  The proposal is to pull up and haul away stumps, rough grade, add required fill, fine grade, and seed the area.  As of 10/15/2013, the proposed quote is $3900.00.  Contact information: Kirby Williams, 804-598-4072 (H), 804-347-3299 (C) 
  • Prashant asked for the RAS to approve a purchase of an eyepiece for the PST solar scope.  A quote for an 11-mm focal length eyepiece is $99 (+ shipping & handling).  Brands that were considered included Coronado and Explorer Scientific.
  • A proposal was made to have a skywatch at the “Center of the Universe”.  Reactions were positive and supporting.
  • The Universe Society, a fundraising, social and networking group for young professionals who promote and support the SMV, wish to join up with RAS and have a skywatch.  Another opportunity of this partnership is in providing mentorship for a student Astronomy project.  This is a good opportunity to involve school age groups.
  • Thanks to David Medici for serving as Board Nominating Committee Chairman.
  • Officer Elections – Results and months for meeting presentation:
    • January                        John Raymond, Observatory Director
    • February          Ken Wilson
    • March              Betty Wilson
    • April                Prashant Reddy
    • May                 Jim Browder, President
    • June                 Gary Cowardin
    • July                  Bill Newman
    • August             Chris McCann, Secretary
    • September        Jim Blowers, Treasurer
    • October                        Dave Medici, Vice President
    • November        Dave Walton
    • December        Party   

 

The board members were asked if there were any conflicts for having the meeting on President’s Day.  No conflicts were brought to our attention.

 

Next Board meeting will be Monday, February 17, 2014 at Extra Billy’s at 7pm.  If you want to come early for dinner, come by at 6pm.   

 

  • Meeting was adjourned at 8:38 pm.


August 2013 Board Meeting Minutes

Nov 11th, 2013 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting August 19, 2013

 

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:00pm.

 

Attendees (8):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • John Raymond, Vice-President
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • Ken Wilson
  • Prashant Reddy
  • Bill Newman
  • Gary Cowardin

 

Missing : David Medici, Betty Wilson, Dave Walton

 

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • May’s board meeting minutes were discussed and accepted.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary         (as of  5/20/2013):                (as of  8/19/2013):
  • General Fund:                        7094.57                               6951.37
  • Observatory Fund:                   187.26                                 149.29
  • TOTAL:                                 7281.83                               7100.66
  • Checking Account:                2188.76                               2005.25
  • Savings Account:                   2861.11                               2861.20
  • Certificate of Deposit:            2231.96                              2234.21
  • Pay Pal Acct:                                0.00                                    0.00
  • TOTAL:                                 7281.83                               7100.66

At this time, there are approximately 61 paid members for 2013.

There are 21 members on the observatory staff.

It was announced that RAS has the lowest per capita membership of all Virginia societies.

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

 

Observatory Report given by John Raymond

  • No issues
  • Property Maintenance Update:  Grass had been cut.  Grass cutting assignments were re-announced for September (Ronald Snead & Preston Kirby), October (Tom Burnham & Wayne Boggs), and November (John Raymond & Randy Tatum).
  • More room in the observatory due to the sale of a telescope.

 

Education Report (Jim Browder) :

  • Numerous outreach events and Skywatches
  • VAAS 2013 – Northern Virginia; nova.com
  • Saturn Wave – nice small group at SMV for photo opportunity from Saturn.  Photo versions from SMV and Saturn’s points of view were posted on the RAS website.
  • CampPhoenix invitation for Sept 28-29; in OldChurch in HanoverCounty;  camp is an annual event for cancer survivors.
  • Belmead – Saturday, Sept 7 at 7:30; PowhatanCounty;  Early moon for new observers; Later, there will be no moon for experienced observing.  Objects of interest: milky way, a new nova, Venus, Saturn, . . . .

 

Library Report (made by Jim Browder)

  • There are no problems at the Richmond Alarm Company.

 

Other Reports:

  • Sale of RAS Dob telescope –  John Raymond had success selling the telescope
  • Powhatan dark sky ordinance – A letter was constructed by Jim Browder and sent to the Powhatan County Planning Commission on May 6, to show RAS’s support of a proposal to improve Powhatan’s lighting ordinance.  Laura Graham has expressed satisfaction with results from the commission.

 

Old Business:

  • Equipment inventory – on going

 

New Business (some of these were mentioned for future discussion):

  • Website access and update capabilities – RAS officers need to become future owners of the RAS website.  We must find out the process to transfer the website ownership from its present owner to the RAS officers.  After training, website changes can be made quicker.
  • Fall Picnic and skywatch – aimed at being at Belmead (need to get their permission).  Proposed to be on Saturday, October 12 with a rain/cloud date of Saturday, October 26.
  • Board Nominating Committee Chairman – Dave Medici will be asked to be the chairman.  Chris has volunteered to help whomever the chairman ends up being.
  • Autumn Astronomy Day on October 13.  Tabled until next year due to lack of planning time and other activities around that time.
  • There was an idea about public ‘Telescope Training’ in January.  Discussion to be held at November board meeting.
  • Spoken appreciation and a gift were presented to Ken & Betty Wilson for their hard work of organizing VAAS 2012 (hosted by RAS).
  • Bill Newman asked for our approval to get a financial quote from a family member, to clear off the land around the observatory, and fill in the resultant holes. 
  • Leslie will talk about the RAS observatory (and other observatories in central Virginia) at the September LiveSky.  For security reasons, the exact location of the observatory will not be revealed.
  • There are plans to have an RAS open house soon.  A suggestion was made to have a public skywatch at the RAS observatory next year, possibly as early as February.  Jupiter and Orion will be in view during mid-February.
  • A suggestion was made to have observatory training during 2014.  A sign-up sheet needs to be available during the monthly meetings.
  • Suggestions from John Goss for improving websites:  loaner telescopes to members, active blog page, survey membership to steer future activities.  We need an ‘faq’ section on the website, and active links to valid helpful sites.
  • Status of ‘past’ skywatch locations:  We need to re-visit the idea of using Five Forks, Powhatan, Pocahontas park, and the Chesterfield Air Park.  Malvern Hill is not being used by RAS (no formal contact).

  

Next Board meeting will be Monday, November 18, 2013 at Extra Billy’s at 7pm.  If you want to come early for dinner, come by at 6pm.   

 

  • Meeting was adjourned at 8:41 pm.


May 2013 Board Meeting Minutes

Aug 14th, 2013 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting May 20, 2013

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:00pm.

Attendees (11):
• Jim Browder, President
• Jim Blowers, Treasurer
• Chris McCann, Secretary
• David Medici
• Betty Wilson
• Ken Wilson
• Prashant Reddy
• Bill Newman
• Gary Cowardin
• Dave Walton
• Randy Tatum

Missing : John Raymond

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann
• February’s board meeting minutes were discussed and accepted.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers
• Balance Summary (as of 2/18/2013): (as of 5/20/2013):
• General Fund: 6588.11 7094.57
• Observatory Fund: 205.23 187.26
• TOTAL: 6793.34 7281.83
• Checking Account: 1702.55 2188.76
• Savings Account: 2861.03 2861.11
• Certificate of Deposit: 2229.76 2231.96
• Pay Pal Acct: 0.00 0.00
• TOTAL: 6793.34 7281.83
At this time, there are approximately 58 paid members for 2013.
There remains 18-20 who have not renewed their dues.
There are 21 members on the observatory staff.
After a brief discussion, the treasurer’s report was accepted by the board.

Observatory Report given by Jim Browder
• No issues
• Grass maintenance schedule issued.

Education Report (Jim Browder) :
• Astronomy Day on a Sunday
o Large turnout in the Rotunda
o Consideration will be made to have it on Sunday again, if we have to. Need to discuss with Leslie before SMV planning for next year.
o Bottle rocket launcher success – looking into getting new launchers – Aquapod ad for new rocket launcher for $24
o All positions/duties were busy with the public
o Brief discussion about getting more RAS signs for greeter, bottle rockets, solar observing
o Great planning work by Prashant – thanks!
• Numerous outreach events
• Invitation to the Nelson County Music Festival in June, 2013.
• Metro Richmond Science Fair – no awards given out due to no Astronomy projects. Sydney Mabry had project on variable stars, but was unfortunately labeled in an incorrect category.

Library Report (made by Jim Browder)
• There are no problems at the Richmond Alarm Company.

Other Reports:
• Sale of RAS Dob telescope / optics – John is trying to sell on the internet
• Equipment inventory – database is working; will email it to all; need to put forms on website
• 501(c)(3) filing – electronically filed
• Powhatan dark sky ordinance – A letter was constructed by Jim Browder and sent to the Powhatan County Planning Commission on May 6, to show RAS’s support of a proposal to improve Powhatan’s lighting ordinance. No further activity was planned for the present time. The area of concern were businesses in the neighborhood of routes 522 and 60.

Old Business:

New Business:
• Possibility of having an Autumn Astronomy Day on October 13. Possible location is SMV or Belmead.
• Options for C-8 and tripod recently acquired from SMV – 1.25” eyepieces, needs diagonal and holder; Possible donation to Belmead for club usage during future outreach projects.
• Repeated suggestion to bring new equipment or photos to meeting
• Member dues and member list are due to Astronomical League. Bill given to Jim Blowers.
• There is a need for more RAS business cards to be created. Possible online vendor is Vistaprint.
• The new PST makes the scope heavier and harder to use. Can RAS look into getting a new tripod that can handle the extra weight and stress? Estimated cost is $120. Prashant will do research into options, including comparing manual and motorized drives. There was concern about some of these drives can be broken easier than others.
• Dave Medici announced that the Hardywood Craft Brewery wants RAS to have a skywatch at their place of business, located between the Diamond and DMV (West Broad Street). Areas of discussion were liability issues for RAS, safety, lighting in the area, added restrictions for observers in immediate area around the telescopes. One possible solution may be for individuals to take their telescopes, instead of “RAS providing telescopes”. Further discussion at the August board meeting.
• Ken Wilson brought QuestLyceum to our attention. It will be a museum and community center on Bellwood Road in Chesterfield County. The founder, Rick Young, is a leading authority on the Wright Brothers. Its main consultant is Gary Powers, the founder of the Cold War Museum. More information at www.questlyceum.org . From the flyer: The QUEST! Lyceum is hands-on experience that explores human achievement. By creating the most important discoveries of the past, QUEST! presents an innovative perspective on the human journey. QUEST! explores how art, creativity and imagination drive the science and technology that advances human progress.

Next Board meeting will be Monday, August 19, 2013 at Extra Billy’s at 7pm. If you want to come early for dinner, come by at 6pm.

• Meeting was adjourned at 8:20 pm.



February 2013 Board Meeting Minutes

May 15th, 2013 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting February 18, 2013

 

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:01pm.

 

Attendees (10):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • John Raymond, Vice President
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • David Medici
  • Betty Wilson
  • Ken Wilson
  • Prashant Reddy
  • Bill Newman
  • Gary Cowardin

 

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • November’s board meeting minutes were discussed, corrected, and accepted.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary         (as of 11/19/2012):                (as of  2/18/2013):
  • General Fund:                        6417.06                               6588.11
  • Observatory Fund:                     93.09                                 205.23
  • TOTAL:                                 6510.15                               6793.34
  • Checking Account:                1422.21                               1702.55
  • Savings Account:                   2860.96                               2861.03
  • Certificate of Deposit:            2226.98                              2229.76
  • Pay Pal Acct:                                0.00                                    0.00
  • TOTAL:                                 6510.15                               6793.34

At this time, there are approximately 38 paid members for 2013.

There remains 30-40 who have not renewed their dues.

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

 

Observatory Report given by Jim Browder

  • No issues
  • Randy has stepped down as Observatory Director.
  • John Raymond was voted into the office of Observatory Director by the board.

  

Education Report (Jim Browder) :

  • Numerous outreach events
    • Belmead (weathered out)
    • Petersburg (mixup)
    • Powhatan Library (“very good!”)
    • Girl Scouts (successful)
    • SMV (good crowd), need to continually check SMV calendar and events
  • Request by Westover Hills Library for Yuri’s Night
  • Invitation to the NelsonCounty Music Festival in June, 2013.  Interesting and different idea.  Before we even consider committing, check with Charlottesville club to see if they need help.
  • StauntonRiver Star Party (March 7-10)
  • Scotchtown, Brandermill, Woodlake
  • Many outreach skywatches and events have occurred and continue to be scheduled at various places.
  • Club flyers are needed, especially for Astronomy Day.

 

Library Report (made by Jim Browder)

  • Virginia reported there was no change in status.  There are no problems at the Richmond Alarm Company.

 

Other Reports:

  • Receipt of secondary solar filter for PST (requested by Prashant Reddy) – tested, used, and enoyed

 

Old Business:

  • Equipment inventory – database operational
  • Need to provide assistance in developing list
  • Suggestion to bring new equipment to meeting
  • Discussed possible policy for Fernando (and others) to use scopes – loaner agreement needs to be finalized; does the borrower need a license?  Training process needs to be established.  Where would the liability be placed?  What if it breaks? ? ?   After finalization, an email needs to go out to membership and announced at monthly club meeting.
  • Action item: John to contact and work with Dave!
  • Lively discussion on equipment inventory.  Definite photos!
  • Discussion on some scopes’ location
  • Idea raised to have a metal inventory tag – does RAC have anything like that?

 

New Business:

  • Prashant Reddy was selected as Astronomy Day coordinator
  • Astronomy Day was originally scheduled for Saturday, April 20, 2013
    • SMV has already scheduled the Chesterfield Science Fair the same day for the Rotunda and the 2 side rooms.
    • Should we have the regular RAS skywatch on Friday and then another on Saturday for Astronomy Day?  Should we pick just one, but which one?
    • Can we use the SMV activities to advertise for RAS Astronomy day for another weekend? . .  Sunday? . . . October?
    • What about around the Planetarium?
  • Continue discussion of purchasing small telescopes for library loan (proposed by David Medici)
    • Possibly limit to frequent requestors/members
  • Consideration of suggestion to refurbish and/or store large Dobs at Belmead for use by Belmead organization  (proposed by John Raymond)
    • Keep optics, re-do structure, sell or give away old mount.  Estimated cost of refurbishment is approximately $1000.
  • John Raymond proposed a motion to sell the old 13-inch mirror to create funds to purchase a new 8-inch Dob, to be used predominately for outreach.  Plan to sell involves advertising in house and if no bids, send to 3rd parties like Astromart.  Resolution: to be discussed at next board meeting..

 

 

Next Board meeting will be Monday, May 20, 2013 at Extra Billy’s at 7pm.  If you want to come early for dinner, come by at 6pm.   

 

  • Meeting was adjourned at 8:42 pm.


November 2012 Board Meeting Minutes

Feb 11th, 2013 | By | Category: Board Meetings

RAS Board Meeting November 19, 2012

 

President Jim Browder called the meeting to order at 7:01pm.

 

Attendees (9):

  • Jim Browder, President
  • David Medici, Vice President
  • Jim Blowers, Treasurer
  • Chris McCann, Secretary
  • Prashant Reddy
  • Bill Newman
  • Dave Walton
  • Gary Cowardin
  • John Raymond

 

Ken and Betty Wilson were missing, and were chasing a total solar eclipse.

 

Secretary’s report given by Chris McCann

  • August’s board meeting minutes were discussed, and accepted.

Treasurer’s report given by Jim Blowers

  • Balance Summary         (as of 8/20/2012):                (as of 11/19/2012):
  • General Fund:                        6729.38                               6417.06
  • Observatory Fund:                    91.06                                    93.09
  • TOTAL:                                 6820.44                               6510.15
  • Checking Account:                1735.37                               1422.21
  • Savings Account:                   2860.89                               2860.96
  • Certificate of Deposit:            2224.18                               2226.98
  • Pay Pal Acct:                                0.00                                     0.00
  • TOTAL:                                 6820.44                                6510.15

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

 

Observatory Report given by Jim Browder

  • No issues
  • Minor maintenance to the building.
  • There was a mention of getting quotes to remove dead tree stumps.
  • Bushes needed to be trimmed/removed by March or it would be too late, due to Spring growth.
  • Prashant questioned the use of stump poison, since the stumps had been dead over 1 year.
  • Jim stated to allow Randy (Observatory Director) with the opportunity to answer and make those plans.
  • Most of the suggestions were from Gary and Prashant.
  • Suggestions are good, but always remember to let Randy deal with it!
  • Jim Blowers was asked for a listing of the Observatory members to help out with grass cutting and nature maintenance.

 

Education Report (Jim Browder) :

  • VAAS – lots of positive feedback!!  Thanks to Betty and Ken for their hard work!!
  • VAAS 2013 is in Northern Virginia.
  • Numerous outreach events (Belmead, Petersburg, Woodlake, Gandy Elementary, Caroline Middle, Scotchtown, SMV, . . . )  Big crowds at Gandy and Caroline!! Usually quite busy in the Fall season.
  • Short range plans: Matoaca Middle, Powhatan Library, and Belmead.
  • Long range additions and ideas: Maymont and ByrdPark
  • Invitation to the NelsonCounty Music Festival in June, 2013.  Interesting and different idea.  Before we even consider committing, check with Charlottesville club to see if they need help.

 

  • Many outreach skywatches and events have occurred and continue to be scheduled at various places.

 

Library Report (made by Jim Browder)

  • Virginia reported there was no change in status.  There are no problems at the Richmond Alarm Company.

 

Other Reports:

  • Twelve-inch Dobsonian telescope/camera/filter set was donated by Jerry Westfall.  For the present time, Prashant will be storing it.
  • SCC Report – will be filed by Phil Roberts
  • Real Estate fee of $25 was paid by Jim Blowers
  • Someone received an email that Cliff Bells passed away

 

Old Business:

  • Prashant and Jim returned the scopes from the scout camp and is storing them in the observatory.  Jim (Browder) is storing the mirror.

 

New Business:

  • Lively discussion on equipment inventory. 
  • Dave Walton – inventory survey is in process.  
  • Questions to consider as we progress forward:
    • Do we have all requested “loaner” information from the membership?
    • How do we handle donations to groups?  Permanent donation or until they are done with it (non-existent club?)
    • Engraved tracking tags on the telescope and other important pieces?
    • Should we donate a scope to Fernando and his new Astronomy club at Clover Hill?
    • Debate about displaying who has loaned equipment on the website.  Possibility to search and find the information by someone who may try to take it illegally.
    • We are 501-3(c).  We can document and give a receipt that we have accepted a donation of equipment, but we cannot appraise it.
  • Prashant has volunteered to handle the planning for the 2012 Christmas party
  • Updates on HospiceCenter behind observatory – does not appear anything new is going on at this time.
  • Election of officers for 2013
  • 2013 meeting schedule, along with designated officer for that meeting/month:
    • January 8          Ken Wilson
    • February 12      Betty Wilson
    • (February 18      Board Meeting)
    • March 12          Prashant Reddy
    • April 9              Gary Cowardin
    • May 14             John Raymond         Vice President
    • (May 20             Board Meeting –  tentative)
    • June 11             Bill Newman
    • July 9                Jim Browder            President
    • August 13         Chris McCann          Secretary
    • (August 19         Board Meeting – tentative)
    • September 10    Jim Blowers              Treasurer
    • October 8          David Medici
    • November 12    Dave Walton
    • (November 18    Board Meeting – tentative)
    • December 10     (Eating meeting)

 

    • Observatory Director : Randy was given first rite of acceptance
    • Librarian:?

 

  • A motion was made to purchase a double-stack filter for the PST.
    • Discussed comments:
      • It can be used at VAAS, Astronomy Day, picnics, and other daily activities, including personal observation. 
      • New filters are more expensive, but are noticeably better than used filters, which are unreliable.
      • Double stacking allows us to visually see the lines and the ropes on the sun. 
      • It is a sizeable amount of money to be used for a small section of the group, and not for a common item that can be used by a larger group of members.
    • Final vote to spend up to $600: 4-yes, 2-no, 2-abstain.  Motion passed.

 

Next Board meeting will be Monday, February 18, 2013 at Extra Billy’s at 7pm.  If you want to come early for dinner, come by at 6pm.   The November 2012 Board agenda stated March 18, but it was corrected verbally and announced as February 18 before we adjourned.

 

  • Meeting was adjourned at 8:18 pm.