AMSA says controversy over decorations is ‘stupid’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2013 at 12:00 am

Organization insists it owns decorations, and wanted to spruce them up for holidays

Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify a comment attributed to AMSA President Maarit Vaga, who says the village did not request to have the decorations returned.)

ALBION – The decorations are back at the village, but a dispute continues over which entity actually owns the wreaths, garland and lights.

The Albion Main Street Alliance believes it owns the decorations, and took them from the Village Hall on Tuesday morning to make an inventory of what needed to be fixed before they were hung up in the downtown later in November.

Some village officials saw the removal of the decorations as possible theft of village property.

AMSA says it has paid insurance on the decorations and has operated on the understanding for several years that they owned them. Even Mayor Dean Theodorakos said during an emergency meeting this morning that he thought AMSA owned the decorations.

AMSA representatives handed the decorations to village officials this morning. This after AMSA said it was threatened with criminal and civil litigation.

“This has been very upsetting because it’s so stupid,” Katelin Olson, the organization’s interim director, said. “It’s been a lot of wasted energy that could have gone into bettering the community.”

Village officials accused the organization of wrongdoing Tuesday when the decorations were removed. The village thought AMSA was doing an on-site inspection. But when the decorations were taken off-site, the village worried the decorations might not be available to display for the holiday season.

Village representatives said they tried to reach out to AMSA about the decorations. AMSA President Maarit Vaga said she heard from the village, but the village didn’t make a request to have the items returned.

Olson said AMSA never would have hidden the decorations or prevented them from being displayed out of spite, as was insinuated.

“There’s nothing to ever suggest we’ve done that kind of behavior,” she said. “We proceeded from a good-faith understanding that these were ours.”

Olson believes AMSA owns the decorations. Its predecessor, the Albion Business Association, rallied the community for donations and also secured a member-item grant from former State Assemblyman Charles Nesbitt to buy the decorations in 2005. The village today said the ABA was a pass through for the money and the village owns the decorations.

AMSA and the ABA stored the decorations from 2005 until the village agreed to store them in 2010, Olson said.