Mateel Community Center general manager Justin Crellin resigned and the Mateel board of directors decided to suspend the Mateel Meal program at a meeting last week in the wake of lackluster attendance at Reggae on the River 2017 that left the center in the red financially.
Counting the debt from before Reggae this year and the cost of the 2017 event, the Mateel is running a debt load of $670,000, Mateel board president Garth Epling said Friday. The debt total given out at the previous board meeting — $533,000 — didn’t include $147,000 owed in bridge loans, he said. The Mateel paid back $10,000 of its debt last week, Epling said.
“I was certainly really sad to see Justin go because he’s dedicated half his life to the Mateel,” Epling said.
Crellin said he hadn’t planned to resign when he walked through the Mateel doors last Monday.
“My role here was becoming a polarizing force,” he said. “My hope was by making this decision I would still be able to see our events through the end of the year.”
Crellin said the blame for the situation at the Mateel was being laid at his feet.
“I do feel like some people feel like that,” he said.
Crellin said he will volunteer through the end of the year to help out with events and hopes the Mateel board and staff will be able to resolve the debt without him.
“The last thing the Mateel needs is more fighting,” he said.
The Mateel funding issues started in 2014.
“We as a board starting in 2014 should have been more mindful of expense cutting and not taking on as many infrastructure projects,” Epling said.
He said all 2018 programing, except Summer Arts and Reggae, is on hold until the debt is resolved.
“We really need to move forward with leasing or partnering with someone to do Reggae,” Epling said.
One silver lining is Fraktal Productions putting on an event to benefit the Mateel.
“When they heard about our trouble, they decided to turn it into a full benefit for the Mateel, which is heartwarming,” Epling said.
According to a Fraktal Productions news release, Doors guitarist Robby Krieger will headline the benefit concert.
“Our community center is what we make it and support for our local institutions has never been more crucial. Now is your chance to make a difference,” the release said.
The board also decided to suspend the 3-times-a-week Mateel Meal service for homeless people.
“That was a controversial vote at the last meeting and we probably took an hour of public comment,” Epling said.
Some saw the program as helping and others saw it as enabling the local homeless population, he said.
“The plan would be to restructure it,” Epling said, stating there is grant funding available for these types of programs.
“I really am hoping for the best for the Mateel,” Crellin said.
More information is available at mateel.org.
Hunter Cresswell can be reached at 707-441-0506.