Congregants Express Frustration with Renovation Pace; Board to Re-bid Project as Fund Raising Draws to a Close
It's 7 o'clock on a Tuesday evening. Do you know where your rabbi is? in some ways, it was just another night at Temple Micah. But "just another night" is often buzzing with all sorts of activity.
On an early September evening, while outside the building, custodian Raphael B. tended to the greenery; inside Rabbi Susan Warshaw met with the religious school teachers in preparation for the new academic year. The board of directors for MiTY, the temple youth group, met in an adjacent classroom with its new director, Allison G., to chart plans for the year. Teddy Klaus, Meryl Weiner and the choir were rehearsing for the upcoming High Holiday services. Making a wholly different set of noises, the Micah board of directors held its monthly meeting, joined as usual by Rabbis Zemel and Manewith and temple administrator Susie Blumenthal.
We began with a report from Paul Greenberg and Sid Booth, both former Micah presidents and co-chairs of the Capital Campaign II with Marc L. and Andrea L.. As of the meeting, Paul and Sid reported that we had reached almost 90% of our total fundraising goal, but that they expected challenges in closing the final gap of almost $400,000. Their report included the feedback some solicitors received during their fund-raising calls. Sid described people's frustration with the pace of the project, annoyance with the dramatic increase in costs and concerns about not using a competitive bid with multiple contractors but, rather, relying on a single contractor to bid the project. While many people were nonetheless generous with their pledges, others were less so, because they felt that the project should not have encountered so many obstacles.
The pace of the expansion project has indeed been painfully slow, particularly for people who were looking forward to hosting events such as b'nai mitzvah celebrations in the new space. Although we hired a professional to help expedite the permitting procedure, as of mid-September we still had not received approval from the various reviewers in the District of Columbia permitting process. Each of these approvals is required before the issuance of the final building permit. The nine-month wait for a fairly simple project has been a source of extreme frustration for all involved.
Because the bids we received in February are more than seven months old, they are no longer binding and we must re-bid the project. At this juncture, the board decided that the building committee should identify additional contractors who might submit bids. The board also directed the building committee to move as quickly as possible to make certain the architectural documents are finalized (incorporating changes from the permit review process) and submitted for bidding.
Although the expansion project consumes a great deal of the board's time and attention, we also continue to focus on ways to enhance our communal ties and make Micah a welcoming and accessible place. Making the community a welcoming place takes many forms. You may have noticed name tags available to all members who choose to use them. We see this as one way to encourage people to talk with one another and make ties to others in the community. We also want to address physical access for people who have restricted mobility. The design for the expansion is sensitive to the issue of physical barriers, but we also need to identify other ways to make our space more open and available to all who use it. A group will soon begin to work on these issues.
Finally, in early October, our office assistant Mariana B., will be leaving Temple Micah, returning to Argentina and pursuing her career. She has been a tremendous asset to Temple Micah, with her technology skills, enveloping smile and willingness to help. On behalf of the board and the community, I want to thank Mariana and wish her all the best in her new adventures.