MANCHESTER — A Manchester dog owner has offered to donate $400 to the Manchester Dog Park, if it will be used to obtain the coveted tax-exempt status for the fledgling park.
Stephanie Fournier made the offer during a meeting Tuesday of Friends of the Manchester Dog Park, a group of dog owners frustrated with the bare-boned nature of the park. Both the founders of the park and the Friends group say tax-exempt status is key to raising money that could be used for amenities such as a water line, agility course and other upgrades.
“I think that the dog park’s a good thing for Manchester overall,” said Fournier, a regional compliance manager for a large retailer. She said $400 is a lot of money for her; her husband had just returned to work after being laid off.
Alienation has grown between several dog-park users and the founders of the park. They now have competing Facebook pages and have been critical of each other. Nine Friends met at the Manchester City Library last night to voice their concerns with the leaders and decide on a strategy.
Tammy Simmons, vice chairman of the Manchester Dog Park Association, welcomed the $400 offer.
“We’ve never discouraged anybody from doing anything,” said Simmons, who is a state representative from the West Side. “We’ve always wanted tax-exempt status, we just said we’re not putting up our own money to do it.”
Simmons said the $400 represents the filing fee with the IRS for the tax-exempt status. She said the Association recently received an application filed with the IRS by a similar organization; she will use it as a template in order to avoid paying a lawyer to complete the paperwork.
Simmons said it’s fine for the Friends or another group to take an initiative to improve the park, as long as the five member Executive Committee has the chance to review and approve it in order to make sure it is safe and proper.
Fournier’s offer comes with a Sept. 15 deadline for a decision by the Executive Committee to apply for tax-exempt status. She said she won’t write a check out to the Dog Park Association, but to the IRS or whatever agency the money must go to.
She also said she’s calling the bluff of the Association leaders, and doesn’t expect they will agree to tax exempt status. That would require them to disclose finances, accept oversight and discourage political involvement.
All five members of the Executive Committee are either Republican state representatives or Republicans running for state representative.
Simmons said the organization must already file disclosures with the New Hampshire Secretary of State. “What’s another form?” she said.
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Mark Hayward may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.