Advisory board actively marketing Connellsville Community Center
By Mary Pickels
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 12:56 a.m.
Greater Connellsville Community Center's newly appointed eight-member advisory board is determined to reverse the building's fortunes.
It is actively marketing the center to new tenants and planning a holiday community event.
But the goal is not without challenges.
Office Manager Lori Kosisko said Tuesday that former tenant Little Buddies Daycare has closed and that Twin Trees intends to vacate the building by mid-November.
Little Buddies' rent was approximately $1,200 a month, while Twin Trees paid $1,580, Kosisko said.
The Salvation Army moved out of its long-time headquarters in September, opening a smaller office in the city last month. The nonprofit had paid a rent of $1,209 per month.
When By Faith Ministries left the Fairview Avenue building in August, the center lost its monthly rent of $1,010.
The vacancies left HObo Railroad Club as the building's sole tenant.
The center's monthly operating expenses, including salaries and utilities, total $3,500, Kosisko said. Costs will rise with winter heating bills.
The center's new gas-forced air heating system will allow “zone” heating, Kosisko said.
“Our heating costs, I do expect to average between $1,000 and $2,000 in the cold months,” she said.
The city took over center operations and council created an advisory board in September. Members are James McIntyre, chairman; Gary Colatch, co-chairman; Dolores Tissue, secretary; Robin Bubarth, treasurer; Patty Firestone, head of fundraising; Ron Michaux, Katie Vozar McCombie and Sue Wagner.
City solicitor Tim Witt said Tuesday that the advisory board's meetings, held Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. in Room 108, are subject to the Sunshine Act and therefore open to the public.
Future meetings will be advertised through legal notices, he said.
The board has launched a fundraising campaign, “A Christmas in the Community,” set for 6-8 p.m. Nov. 30.
The center will be decorated and craft vendors will sell holiday goods. A bonfire with carolers is scheduled from 6-7 p.m., followed by a visit from Santa Claus.
Craft vendors will return on Dec. 1 from noon to 5 p.m. That day's activities will include a puppet show by Robert Sanner at 1 p.m., followed by a movie.
Businesses are invited to donate Christmas trees that will be auctioned to benefit center operating expenses, Kosisko said.
The trees should be artificial and 8 feet or less, decorated with a theme.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the Christmas event may contact Kosisko at 724-626-0300.
The board is hopeful the holiday event will raise enough money to pay the center's bills until new tenants are acquired.
“We need to raise funds and make people aware of the building itself. We need to get new tenants,” Colatch said.
“The biggest problem we have is that most of the tenants we had before were based in social services. When their funding was cut, they closed or left. We are looking at new ways to market the building,” he said.
The board has considered different ways to increase “foot traffic,” he said, from a minimall to business office space.
He said the board is in talks for potential rental of the Edwin S. Porter Theater.
“One thing we would like to see is the direction of the center as more cultural in basis, along with business tenants,” Colatch said.
“The building has lots of possibilities and lots of potential for future use. It's a central location,” he said.
City council has given the advisory board “pretty free rein, given the desperate situation,” to market the center, he said.
“I have to say, city council and the mayor have been fantastic. They have been supportive of everything we have brought to them. We all want to see the building succeed,” Colatch said.
“It needs some work. We hope to find tenants willing to work on renovation. Right now we are very positive,” he said.
Kosisko said prospective tenants have recently toured the building.
The gymnasium is being booked for birthday parties and team sports.
Earlier this month, By Faith Ministries opened a furniture thrift store in the center. Hours are 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday in rooms 110 and 111.
Potential sales will benefit the center's operational costs, Kosisko said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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