Wellness Center closing Saturday

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MEXICO – As of Saturday, the River Valley Wellness Center will close for good. That’s what selectmen learned from Town Manager John Madigan at Wednesday night’s board meeting.

Referring to recent rumors that the center was closing, Madigan said, “They’re done.”

He said the center wouldn’t have enough money to pay for its insurance coverage, which expires April 15.

Madigan then read a letter, which he said he received Wednesday from center Director Tina Sirois and employee Vickie Kuhl.

In the letter, Sirois and Kuhl stated that they met with Madigan in December 2005 and this past March to discuss financial problems that the nonprofit organization was having concerning paying rent and insurance coverage.

Sirois said early Thursday evening that the center provided a service to the community. It worked with people who were handicapped and physically challenged, and special needs people like diabetics, offering exercise and cardiovascular workouts.

“We did it as a community service. It served a purpose, but it wasn’t one that could be sustained,” Sirois said.

The Wellness Center was originally part of services offered by Rumford Hospital. But, when the hospital made cutbacks, the center was one of them.

The center moved into the Mexico Recreation Center in October 2001 with the premise that it would be self-supporting after a year or so.

The hospital helped support the Wellness Center by donating exercise equipment and provided some money to renovate a portion of the recreation center for its use.

Additionally, the town did not charge the Wellness Center rent until after selectmen voted 3-2 in November 2004 to give the Wellness Center a chance to pay back its accumulated debt of about $10,000 to the town.

Although, Sirois said Thursday night that the center began paying $600 a month for rent in October 2004.

In the letter read Wednesday night, Sirois and Kuhl stated that they have not received salaries at the Wellness Center for more than 18 months.

“There is no money in our account to pay for continuing insurance and rent,” they wrote. They also said they would not be responsible for operations at the center after April 15.

Any personal items owned by Sirois and Kuhl are to be removed from the facility within the next three weeks, the letter stated.

“We feel that we have gone above and beyond what most people would do in trying to keep this facility open, and running as it should be. It was hard to keep up with the rent and the competition within the building, as well as in the area,” Sirois and Kuhl stated.

Sirois said Thursday night that at one time, the Wellness Center had memberships, but these began to dwindle when other fitness centers like Curves and Generations Health and Fitness came to town.

Madigan said he expects to soon fill the vacancy to be left by the Wellness Center. Another company is interested in the space, but he did not name it.


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