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Connellsville steers community center onto right track

| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

Connellsville City Council has approved bylaws for the Greater Connellsville Community Center that greatly reduce the number of members on the board of directors and give the city better oversight and control, Councilman Gregory “Matty” Ritch said.

Rich said the community center got into financial difficulties and all but three or four of the 15-member board resigned. City officials stepped in to regain control.

“Now, we have a 60 percent occupancy,” Ritch said. “Last year at this time, the occupancy rate was zero. The city would not let the center fail. We kept that promise. We achieved that goal.”

Ritch said last year's situation forced the board to ask the city for $3,000. “Now, (the center) is working out plans to pay the city back,” he said.

Recently, city officials sat down with the old nonprofit's remaining board members to rewrite the organization's bylaws.

There were 15 board members under the old bylaws. Once that number fell below 10, the mayor was to appoint more members.

Under the new bylaws, there will be a five-member board overseeing the day-to-day operations of the center. The board members will be appointed from among former members, volunteers and building tenants.

Sue Wagner and Katie Vozar-McCombie were on the original board and were members of the advisory board. Wagner said she is no longer on the board.

Vozar-McCombie explained that the board dissolved early in 2013 and was replaced by an advisory board of four members. She said she felt the volunteers at the center were doing a great job, adding she would be glad to volunteer to be on the board again. She said the direction at the community center seems to be positive.

Attempts to contact the two other members — Gary Colatch and Dolores Tissue — were unsuccessful.

“The city is still not going to be controlling the day-to-day operations,” said Ritch. “Like the (Carnegie Free) Library and the (Connellsville) Redevelopment Authority, they will have control of the day-to-day operation. The city will have responsibility for oversight.

“Now it is time to turn over the controlling interest to the (community center) board. It will not be city-controlled,” he said. “The board will be made up from the volunteers and from those who were friends of the community center — those who have a willingness and a passion. The city is backing out of that, turning it back over to the (center's) board.”

Ritch said the change is escalating. “What we will do is crawl, then walk, then run,” he said. “Once they are running, we'll tell them, ‘You've got it now. You're on your own.' ”

City Council will review a new lease agreement with the board and approve new board members at its next meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Ritch said. For now, the advisory board is in a “stand-down” mode.

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