Saturday, June 30th Star Island Update from Amy Lockwood

PLEASE NOTE: THIS MESSAGE IS BEING SENT BY BRIAN WINTERS ON BEHALF OF AMY LOCKWOOD. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO COMMUNICATE WITH AMY, HER EMAIL ADDRESS IS alockwood@starisland.org.

Greetings Star Island Community Members:

First, let me say that I wish I were able to write updates much more frequently than time is allowing. All the senior management is working close to around the clock on working with fire professionals, contractors, Pelicans, and many others on the current problems for Star Island.

The priorities we are using in this work are a) work that is actively getting the island open, b) communications and as much support as possible to conferences being directly impacted at the time, and c) communications to the broader community. I deeply apologize for the resulting seemingly inevitable truth right now that communications to the broader community are slower than any of us want. I can assure you the entire senior management team is working well in excess of 80 hours per week to get Star open and communicate with you, and will continue to work as hard as we can to meet your needs.

A brief update from the island:

As you may know, on Wednesday Star Island Corporation was conclusively informed that prior to opening it must complete an electrical survey of the island to map where our electricity comes from and runs to, and detect any areas where circuits might be overloaded or other electrical problems may exist. This project has been on a long term list agreed upon between SIC and fire officials. Star Island Corporation has spent over $780,000 in the last five years alone on fire safety projects. Fire officials feel that this mapping project is a necessary next step to assure the island’s safety before we have guests on the island. As you have probably heard we estimate a timeline of one month to complete the project.

As we have with every step in the process over the last few weeks, within the afternoon of learning this conclusively, we a) arranged all the professionals needed to conduct this project in the most time-efficient manner possible and b) started contacting conference leadership of groups that would be impacted.

Many conferees have asked if we are dedicating enough resources to shortening this timeline. We have contracted with en electrical engineer who is intimately familiar with Star Island’s systems as he has been assessing them on the consultant team originally put together in 2002. He is bringing a work team with him , and in addition we have retained a minimum of six electricians to be on the island over the next month to address any issues as they arise (as well as address issues we already know about). Our electricians, who have been doing Star’s electrical work for over five years, have committed to bringing in extra electricians should we discover any other significant issues as we proceed. We have also committed Pelicans to provide set up and staging assistance when needed. We began project set up work with the electrical engineer on Thursday by giving him planning information he needs. He has confirmed that this team will work every day (that is, including weekends ) for the duration of the project; we have, of course, offered him the opportunity to stay here at the island to the extent he feels that would enhance his ability to perform this work.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to a very positive start with the new interim fire chief in Rye, Skip Sullivan, as he arrives at the island for a visit and collaborative check in on this project on Tuesday. Chief Sullivan took over for Chief Richard O’Brien on Friday as Chief O’Brien moves to a similar position in another New Hampshire community. This visit is a real opportunity for dialogue early in the project to assure we are all working toward similar goals, will allow Chief Sullivan to see the work that is going on firsthand, and will minimize any chances for miscommunication on what those goals should be as we proceed.

We are also working with statewide press as they carry interest in this story. Overall, I am very pleased to have worked collaboratively with all fire officials and the press in this matter. Unfortunately this morning the Portsmouth Herald, which has been carrying this story regularly, issued a story that could imply otherwise. As I missed a reporter’s response deadline by one minute yesterday evening, the Herald decided to run with their own story and hence, the Star Island Corporation did not have the opportunity to state in the article its responses to fire official’s statements. In actuality, Star and fire officials have discussed all the issues in the article extensively and have reached a mutually satisfactory understanding on how they are being addressed. We look forward to having our responses to these statements printed in the Herald as soon as possible.

Six months ago the board of directors had fortuitously scheduled an on-island retreat for this week. They arrived Thursday evening and have been spending intensive time beginning review and dissection of what has happened, the financial impact on the island, and talking with experts to assist them in assessing and selecting proper courses of action. By the end of this retreat today they will announce the results of much of that work in ongoing updates.

One sure decision they assessed and decided upon at this time is that, given all the financial information we have right now in hand, the best course of action is to work as aggressively as possible toward an August opening. The board has done a full assessment of the resources we know we have in hand such as emergency reserves, and those resources have been deployed. The board is in conversation with the board of the Permanent Trust already and will be continuing a conversation about how the Trust can assist the Corporation with short and long term needs successfully.

The brightest spot in all of this challenge is the Star Island Pelicans. I consider myself fortunate to be here on the island where I can be exposed to their energy – some anxious with understandable reasons, but on the whole, amazingly positive and wonderful. This will not surprise you, but their commitment to being the successful front line of stewardship for Star Island in this crisis seems to have no bounds. I was more pleased than I can say to be able to inform them yesterday that our plan is to continue progressing toward an August opening. In the one month window between now and then, we intend to house and employ Pelicans to the level they need. Many have indicated they would welcome voluntary time off during some of this time which we will work to honor. We are currently working on a work plan that will keep daily functions moving along, keep the fire safety work on the highest level of importance, and tackle some large scale, but low-to-moderate expense projects that we’ve dreamed about having time to do for the island for some time – catching up on exterior painting being just one of them.

In other notes, conference deposits are all in the process of being returned now. Many conferees and conferences have asked about whether they can receive reimbursement for expenses they incurred planning on their conference. Please send all such requests in writing with as much specific back up as you have (such as receipts) to Kristi Vazifdar, Finance Manager, at the Star Island Corporation office (kvazifdar@starisland.org). The board of directors is mapping out a reimbursement policy and will announce it as soon as it is complete. In the meantime, Kristi will collect information sent so we are able to respond to you fully.

Finally, as someone new to Star, it is of course difficult for me to imagine the frustration, pain and fear many of you may be feeling at the loss of your conference or, more importantly, the potential devastating impacts of this event on Star Island’s future. Because we are still fully engaged in two tiers of work, getting the island open and beginning assessment of the impact for the island, we simply do not have all the answers you feel you need on how this happened and how it can be prevented. As you may have heard, the board is in the process of establishing a committee that will be broad-based to assess these questions. Dave Boynton, Vice President of the board, is chairing the committee (d.boynton@comcast.net). These answers will come together, and the information gathering process has started already. If you have questions you would like to see answers to, or your own insights as to what has occurred, please contact Dave and he will be sure to get your thoughts into the committee’s mix.

In the meantime, I have one request of the community. I ask that you pause and be thoughtful about where and how you direct your fear and anger, as justifiable as it may be. The Star Island Corporation office and other front-line communications staff are taking the brunt of many people’s anger at this time.  They have been subjected to angry messages found on the office door, angry and even abusive email messages, and angry phone calls. They do not deserve this, and such anger is inappropraite for the community of this religious and educational conference center. So I ask that you please bear in mind the thought that the person you speak with on the phone or via e-mail in the office could not possibly have caused the problem at the root of this frustration. In addition, all staff members do truly have the best updates there are at the time. If they do not have the answer to your question it is because we, even in the upper management and board, are still seeking and developing the answer to your question. We have received overwhelming support from many Star Island community members for which we are deeply appreciative.

Now that we are settled on clear plan of work and timeline, my expectation is that we will have more time for regular communications and updates to you. Please know that is a goal, second only to the efforts we are putting into helping Star get back to what it should be – full of conferees enjoying it’s special place in their lives.

Sincerely,
Amy Lockwood
Executive Director


Brian Winters
Development Associate
Star Island Corporation
10 Vaughan Mall, Suite 8, Worth Plaza * Portsmouth, NH 03801
(603) 430-6272 * bwinters@starisland.org * www.starisland.org

Author: Pelican Reunion

Share This Post On