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Connellsville councilman says city committed to community center

| Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, 10:55 p.m.

Connellsville City Councilman Greg Ritch assured members of the Greater Connellsville Area Community Center advisory board on Thursday that the center is not going anywhere.

“The city is committed to this building, and we will not let this building go,” Ritch said. “We're not going to close these doors.”

His comments were prompted by questions from board members who asked whether it was fair to host fundraisers if the building was going to close by the end of the year.

“I have a hard time asking someone for money or for a donation if the building isn't even going to be open after Dec. 31,” said board Chairman Jim McIntire.

Board treasurer Robin Bubarth agreed.

“Our city hall is getting a loan to make payroll, so how can you guarantee us that this building will remain open?” she asked. “We've embraced it. We've been meeting here every week for two months. We came on board with you and the mayor. However, we have to look at the big picture.

“We're trying to envision a future, but no one can promise us that there is a future,” Bubarth added.

Ritch said members of City Council and the mayor are working to save the community center for the city's residents.

“We all have a common goal — to keep this center a viable option,” he said.

In order to do that, the building needs to begin generating some kind of steady cash flow.

Bubarth said if the center could get about $3,000 a month from gymnasium and theater rentals, and maybe $1,200 to $2,000 in rentals of its rooms each month, it could probably keep the doors open and make the center a “viable place.”

“Unfortunately, we are nowhere near our budget at this point,” she said.

Ritch said the advisory board is working hard, but the board needs to look at every opportunity and not put all of the focus and attention on the Porter Theater.

“There are other avenues of approach to get to the finish line,” he said.

Board member Gary Colatch said that while Ritch was looking at it from a governmental standpoint, the board is looking at it from a business perspective.

“We're focusing on the Porter Theater because that's one of the few usable parts of the building,” Colatch said.

McIntire said everyone is working hard, but they will have to look at getting money to flow into the center.

The board is considering three ideas to generate revenue, including sending out donation letters, selling bricks for a memory lane and starting a membership drive.

The board is putting together “A Christmas in the Community” event scheduled for Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The weekend event will include crafters, a show of trees, puppets, a movie and even a visit from Santa.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 15. Members voted to eliminate their meeting during the week of Thanksgiving and will spend the following week's meeting setting up for the Christmas event.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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