BISBEE – One thing was made clear Thursday night in a meeting of the Bisbee Radio Project, Inc., (BPR) board of directors — the majority of the people who attended want to keep the local radio station KBRP on the air and would not be averse to selling the Bisbee Royale.
As one of the KBRP founders Harry Wolters put it, “Sell the building. It was given to us, so we’re not losing anything. The maintenance of the building is beyond us.”
The Bisbee Royale, built in 1919 as a church, has been an entertainment center for movies, lectures, meetings, concerts and theater performances since it was renovated and reopened in 2012. In 2015, the 8,000 square foot building was donated to BRP and the radio station had a new home and community entertainment center to help raise revenue for the non-profit.
Board member Paul Tompkins explained to the dozens of people at the meeting the extent and the cost of keeping up the building, with its problems of roof leaks, water damage and constant maintenance taking a toll on the volunteers and funds available for repairs.
“We can’t go on like this,” Tompkins said. “We would have to get a loan to pay people to repair the building. I don’t think anyone wants to do that. I don’t see how we can hold on.”
Another matter made clear was the need for more volunteers, Tompkins added. He and other volunteers are putting 20 to 30 hours a week into the organization to keep the station and the Royale going.
Tompkins also said the previous station manager appears to have made a $20,000 deal with the Mexican consulate in Douglas to help children from Douglas to Portal learn English when their parents work as farm laborers. The program was never initiated.
Tompkins was unsure if it was even legal to take money from Mexico. He thinks BRP will not be held responsible for replacing the funds.
“That’s not our mission. We don’t educate. We don’t know how the money was spent,” he said.
Sandy Tilcock, treasurer, noted she, too, was unsure just where the money went, but she is trying to piece the station’s financial health together.
Last year, former board members fired station manager Ryan Bruce for fiscal mismanagement. A lien was placed on BRP funds at the bank, and it appeared there had been a number of years of non-payment of federal taxes to the IRS as was reported in the Herald/Review at the time.
The move caused an upheaval in the membership and the non-profit has been trying to get a handle on all its problems since then.
Tilcock has only been on the board for two months and is not an accountant. Slowly, she is sifting through what records there are of finances. She happily reported to BRP supporters and volunteers the organization had finished the month in the black, not by much, but enough to breathe just a little.
Volunteers are the ones responsible for holding the station together now as there are no paid positions, except for the cleaning crew, Tilcock said.
That’s good news, since the last online posted account for March/April showed a total of $8,850 gross profit and $16,421 in expenses.
Angelika Johnson asked Tilcock to separate the expenses and profits for the Bisbee Royale from those of BRP, so the membership is able to make an informed decision about the Royale.
Board vice-president Vicente Abril said a vote will be taken in November to determine the future of BRP and the Royale. It is possible the organization could sell the building, but keep the radio station there, or sell the building and move back into its former home at The Central School Project, or even purchase a home and convert it to a studio.