News - September 3, 2008

Portola Valley plans dinner, grand opening for $20 million Town Center complex

by Dave Boyce

A select group of Portola Valley donors and their family members, 75 residents in all, are receiving invitations to a dinner to recognize their major gifts to the Town Center project. The dinner's cost, about $179 per person, will come from a fund of private donations to the project that is administered by the town.

Invitations went to donors who gave at least $50,000 to the project, said Town Center fundraising campaign co-chairs Beth Rabuczewski and SallyAnn Reiss.

The $20 million complex at 765 Portola Road, scheduled to open at the Blues and Barbecue festival on Sunday, Sept. 14, will have a new library, Town Hall, community hall and maintenance buildings, plus outdoor facilities that include a softball field, tennis courts and a lawn suitable for relaxing during open-air performances.

A list of donors published at shows 39 gifts greater than $50,000, including three anonymous gifts and six from institutions or foundations.

To pay for the dinner, the Town Council on Aug. 13 granted a request from Ms. Rabuczewski for $13,154, along with $6,915 for the Sept. 14 ribbon-cutting ceremony and $500 for an appreciation lunch for town staff. The money will be drawn from donated funds.

The council approved the request on a 4 to 1 vote, with Councilman Richard Merk opposed. The sticking point was the $179 per person for the dinner. "That just seems over the top," Mr. Merk said.

The idea, Ms. Rabuczewski replied, is to try to make the dinner memorable because people with thousands or millions of dollars of disposable income go to such dinners all the time. "I'd be happy to put out red-checked tablecloths and hamburgers," she added as a rejoinder.

Given the strong environmental emphasis to this project, Mr. Merk also asked whether anyone had considered the carbon-dioxide footprint of this dinner. They have. The handmade table centerpieces are locally grown — from foliage in Ms. Reiss' yard, Ms. Rabuczewski said.

In an interview, Ms. Reiss noted that the interest the town earned on $17 million in donations more than covers the cost of the dinner.

Asked to comment, Mr. Merk replied: "To me, that's totally irrelevant. It's the use of the money. The interest could have gone to any number of things that we still need money for."

Then he added: "Hey, I was voted down and that's the end of it. I vote my conscience when I'm up there (behind the dais) and that's the way I feel about it."


Posted by Pigeon Duzanica, a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Sep 2, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Post Office must have lost my invitation.
Guess I'll spray some trees at the club.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Sep 3, 2008 at 10:29 am

The $179 would certainly be "over the top" if public money were being used. But it's not. What I found strange about this story is the snarl in Richard Merk's response. Is he always this cranky?

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