Nevada County fire council counting on fundraisers to get by |

Nevada County fire council counting on fundraisers to get by

Laura Brown
Sun News Service

NEVADA COUNTY ” The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County is banking on theater and wine to keep its doors open ” meanwhile borrowing against a line of credit to pay the monthly salary of Executive Director Joanne Drummond.

Since July of last year, state grants totaling $130,000 have been frozen, forcing the nonprofit organization into debt, said board Chairman Dennis Cassella.

Reserves were exhausted by January, forcing the council to turn to the bank to pay for Drummond’s salary, Cassella said.

At that time, outstanding invoices totaled $180,000, the office manager was let go and the bookkeeper was shifted to half time, The Union has reported.

The council owes one local brush trimming contractor $50,000 and a telephone company, credit card company, environmental consultant and two other vendors between $1,000 and $10,000 each, Cassella said.

“We can’t pay them because the state can’t pay us. We’re using our line of credit from the bank to stay in operation,” he said. “To say we’re annoyed is an understatement.”

The state has indicated it won’t pay the interest on the bank loan, Cassella added.

Fire season looms on the horizon, yet without funding, a popular chipping program is on hold. Piles of flammable brush and twigs sit in neighborhoods.

Picasso and vino

Until the state budget brightens, the council is turning to fundraisers to backfill empty coffers.

“This is pretty much the first time we’ve had to do serious fundraising to stay in business. We’re having to pull out all the stops,” Cassella said.

On Wednesday, May 6, LeGacy Productions will present the comic play “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” at the Nevada Theatre to benefit the Fire Safe Council. Tickets cost $15 in advance.

On May 9, the Gold Country Lions Club will host a motorcycle run and donate part of the proceeds to the Fire Safe Council. A wine tasting event will be held at Pilot Peak Winery later this summer.

If the state deficit doesn’t improve in 2010, the council will have to reduce services including its chipping program and possibly ax Drummond’s position, relying instead

on volunteers.

“If grants fall through … then I don’t think we’d continue with an executive director,” Cassella said.

Tickets for the play are available at the Book Seller, Harmony Books, and by calling the Fire Safe Council at 272-1122 ext. 4.

For more information about the production, visit

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