RUMFORD – Greater Rumford Community Center Chairman Gary Dolloff said Thursday afternoon that the increase in the Rumford Senior Center's rent at the building was “not personal,” but a result of the town rejecting the GRCC's operating budget.
At the annual town meeting in June, voters rejected the GRCC's operating budget and summer programs budget.
The GRCC's operating budget of $138,100 was defeated 829-657, and its summer programs funding request of $22,720 was rejected, 845-607. There was no recourse due to a previous charter change.
Dolloff said the GRCC has had to lay off all its employees and resort to a series of fundraisers to reach its goal of $60,000, which is “the bottom-line for keeping the GRCC open on a volunteer basis.”
Due to the lack of an operating budget, Dolloff said the the Board of Directors realized they had to “try and make every inch of our building profitable,” which resulted in an increase in rent for GRCC tenants.
Among the tenants is the nonprofit Rumford Senior Center, which announced Tuesday it is searching for a building to move into by Oct. 1. The rent at the GRCC increased to $1,000.
The GRCC and the Rumford Senior Center “have been working with each other forever,” Dolloff said.
“My intent isn't to send the seniors out into the street,” he said. “The thing is, for the past 10 years or so, we've had an agreement with the Senior Center that allows them to pay us minimal rent. I'm not sure what the numbers are exactly, but it was a lower amount. We would let them pay us whatever they could afford to stay in the building.
“After these votes went through, we, as a board, decided that we had to make every inch of our building profitable, and that meant raising the rent for our tenants,” Dolloff continued. “The place where the Senior Center resides is a huge piece of our building. I told them I was sorry, but it's the only way to try and keep the GRCC running.”
Dolloff said there were times over the years when “the board would suggest raising the Senior Center's rent,” but he would suggest allowing them to continue operating the way they always had.
“It was something we did because we felt like it was the right thing to do,” Dolloff said. “If things weren't the way they are in town right now, we wouldn't be in this situation. We offered to move them into a different part of our building and offered them the value that the previous tenant was receiving.”
Dolloff said he's talked to some of the seniors who visit the Senior Center and “they understood our plight.”
“I've offered to help them find a new place, and to help them move if they find one,” he said. “I'm trying to help out to the best of my ability. I would love for them to be able to stay, but the truth is, there are certain factions in this town that are making things difficult, and we're doing everything we can to stay open.”