March 24, 2018

Notes by Bob Sprague

The meeting was called to order at 9:32AM at the Hampton Inn Manassas, Room 123. Present were Brian Sheron, Superintendent, Marshall Abrams, Senior Assistant Superintendent, Ed Rosado, Assistant Superintendent, Bill White, Clerk, and approximately 35 Potomac Division members.

Brian noted that this year's Business Meeting was being held as a standalone event because there is no MiniCon due to the Division hosting the MER Convention in October.

Election of Two Board Members

Brian remarked that the Bylaws had been changed to call for staggered two year terms for officers to provide continuity. There were two Board positions open, and two nominations were received.

Bill White was thanked for his service as Clerk.

Bob Sprague and Tom Brodrick were elected unanimously for open positions on the Board.

Vote on Revision to Bylaws

It was necessary to change Item 3 of the Division bylaws to ensure that all members received communication of the date, time, and location of the Election Meeting of the Division even if they did not have e-mail.

The proposal to change the Bylaws by eliminating the word "electronically" from the language was approved by unanimous vote.

Marshall Abrams asked if anyone present had received a postcard and was gratified to learn that at least one attendee did.

Guest Speaker

Kurt Thompson, Vice President of the NMRA Mid-Eastern Region (MER) is also a member of Chesapeake Division.

Kurt noted that the 2018 MER Convention is being hosted by the Potomac Division. The 2019 event will be hosted and supported by the Philadelphia Division, likely in Valley Forge. The 2020 MER Convention has just been awarded to the Carolina Southern Division (Charlotte, NC area), which will make sure to avoid scheduling the convention at the same time as the large NASCAR race in October. The Chesapeake Division is considering hosting 2021 in the Baltimore area.

The Chesapeake Division is hosting Modeler's Day at Anne Arundel Regional Library next weekend. The South Mountain/Susquehanna Division joint meet at Blue Ridge Summit, PA occurs the weekend after that.

Elections for the MER Board alternate years for Directors and Officers. This year MER members will be voting for Titled Officers; Jack Dziadul is Chairman of Nominating Committee. Everyone is welcome to run; members can self-nominate, but candidates for President must have been on MER Board or served as a Division Superintendent for a full term. Kurt is running for MER President this year. Kurt noted that two terms on the Board = AP Certificate for Association Official.

MER is a not-for-profit, 501c(3) organization, as is the National (but not all Divisions). The MER budget has not been balanced for years and still isn't. Before the National dues structure came into being 15 years ago members paid across the board. The MER budget was balanced but never showed the true cost. Brian Kampschroer has taken over as Treasurer, working to move financials into a true realization of what it costs to run the Region and what has been done off the books. At the moment, Kurt and Brian working to get the budget in balance through containing expenses and raising income. The Region, like the Division, cannot collect dues.

MER gets $2 per member from National, some of which must be rebated, whereas dues were $6 when dues structure changed and might be $11-12 now. Michelle Chance is Director in charge of fundraising. Marty McGuirk asked why each member cannot be asked to chip in $5-10 bucks each. Kurt said this has been discussed by the Board.

Gary Mason asked if other regions are in a similar situation, and whether the systemic issue should be taken up with the national organization. Kurt has advocated as a member, not as an officer. National dues have kept pace with inflation, but payments to Regions have not increased. Life memberships (which are no longer available at either national or regional level) are a "chunk," but the Region has a reserve that is actually overfunded.

The next MER Board meeting is Saturday, April 28 at the convention hotel in Rockville.

Annual Financial Report

Tom Brodrick was unable to attend this meeting. Brian Sheron gave an overview.

The beginning balance on 1/1/17 was $4,272.67. As of February 1, 2018 the balance had declined to $3,414.55. Brian believes the difference is related to losses at the MiniCon and expenses for planning the 2018 Convention.

Discussion of Survey Results

Brian presented the results of the member survey originally transmitted about one year ago. The purpose of the survey was to see if there were suggestions to help members get more out of the NMRA and the Division. Chesapeake Division had done a survey before.

About 23% of about 260 members responded. MiniCon attendance is normally about 60 people, open houses about 25-30 -- usually the same people, an active element in the Division.

Although there were many good suggestions, none that represented identifiable trends. Most concerned expanding Division programs. Affordable venues in the DC area are hard to find. St. Matthews Church charges $600 for the MiniCons, which about break even. The Division being spread out is another challenge. No ideal place that represents a short drive for everyone. The Division may co-sponsor a Columbia, MD-area MiniCon jointly with the Chesapeake Division in 2019.

One suggestion from the survey was for the Division to hold hands-on clinics. Brian said that if members know people who have a skill that might serve as a hands-on clinic they should suggest them to the Board.

At one time the Division hosted White Flag Extras. Bill Day headed up the clinics. Bill, who was present, noted that Marty Brechbiel started the first two as hands-on in public libraries, free. Had them every month; Clint Hyde taught airbrushing, John Drye weathering, Marty McGuirk on layout progress, Marshall Abrams on mini-signals for the layout. After a year, resources and interest began to wane.

Marty suggested combining layout tour days with clinics to make a full day event.

Marshall Abrams noted that free meeting rooms are available in Fairfax County libraries, but can only be reserved 3 months in advance, a very short lead time. Events also have to be free and open to the public.

Brian noted that the Division was considering clustering layout tours quarterly events, rather than monthly, including White Flag clinics in the morning and several layout tours on the same day in the same region in the afternoon. It is difficult, however, to coordinate several layout hosts for the same day. Biggest question is venue; it doesn't have to be free; but cannot get up into $500-600+. If members have venues to suggest, and presenters willing to create hands-on clinics, they are encouraged to suggest them.

An attendee suggested adding films from national meeting, with explanation and commentary from someone who had attended the clinic while the film is running.

Tim Barr noted the hierarchy of learning; best way is to do it yourself, next best way is to watch someone doing it, then to be told about it, etc. Clint Hyde's demonstration of airbrushing was effective. Brian reiterated the need to find the experts. Bob Sprague recommended actively requesting layout tour hosts to develop a clinic on something impressive on their layouts.

An attendee suggested that the definition of hands-on clinic be expanded to those in which the presenter works on a single model; a demonstration instead of a slide show. Brian remarked that Lou Sassi had given a clinic on using toy cars as models through photographs that was perfectly effective. A how-to clinic. Marshall had captured a clinic on making trees with photographs and turned it into an article. Bill Day noted the presence of world-class modelers in Paul Dolkos, Lance Mindheim, and Bernie Kempinski and whether there is a way to involve them. They will be giving clinics at the Regional Convention.

The Division needs additional help on editing and publishing The Flyer. An attendee suggested a clinic on what goes into it. Marshall will do an article outlining the steps of how it goes together.

Attendance and volunteers for the Operations Initiative have also dwindled. A volunteer to guide it would be welcome.

Mike Niebling inquired about relationships with the model railroad clubs. Are operating sessions there in competition with Division activities? Is there cooperation that could be taken advantage of? Northern Virginia club has a waiting room that might be suitable for clinics, although parking might be an issue.

In general, the Board needs more members to volunteer, even for short-term or one-time purposes, including for the convention. Two particular needs are for the White Elephant Sale, which requires 2-3 volunteers at all times, and assistants to make sure clinician presentations are properly set up before the clinics are to begin. Bill Gross needs help at the registration table, especially Thursday night through Friday.

The next meeting of the Local Convention Committee (LCC) is Saturday April 28 at 10AM at Ernie Little's house in Manassas. Lunch will be provided, and new volunteers are encouraged to attend.

Brian reminded all that working on committees is a great way to get points toward AP Volunteer certificate.

Potomac Division Teams Initiative

Nick Kalis presented a plan to get more camaraderie in the Division and attendance at the open houses.

Nick has found that there are as many as 25 members excited to host an open house each year, including fresh faces, and only 12 are needed. 2018 was filled by the end of 2017, and 2019 is now filled. Now we need 2020. This gives modelers a long lead time to get their layouts presentable.

Goals of the Potomac Division Teams are to provide smaller geographically based groups within the Division. Will assist with carpooling to open houses, participate in layout building or operations, encourage one another. A lot of members are introverts and would be helped by being introduced.

The teams would be voluntary, without dues. A volunteer team coordinator would be named for each. They may not work perfectly, but so what?

Wrap Up and Next Steps 

Brian closed the meeting with another call for volunteers.

John Paganoni was thanked for handling the logistics for today's meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 pm.