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Public meeting June 4 called to ‘Save the Center’

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

The Anna Maria Island Community Center may be forced to close in a few weeks for lack of funds. It is almost down to its last dollar, executive director Dawn Stiles said.

Stiles scheduled a “Save the Center” town meeting for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, to discuss the situation.

“We are definitely in a financial crisis,” Stiles said.

With about $60,000 remaining in its operating account, Stiles said the center might have enough funds to remain open another 30 days.

She asked “everyone to come to the meeting and let’s come together to save the center. We need to decide if we want to keep the center open — or not.”

With few revenue-producing programs planned during the summer, Stiles said the situation is critical.

“If we are to remain open, we need immediate funding,” she said.

An effort to refinance the center’s $4.5 million loan was unsuccessful, she said.

“We pay $8,666 a month to the bank. We’re not behind, but they have declined to rework the loan to a lower interest rate.”

Stiles said further details of the center’s financial situation would be brought up at the June 4 meeting. The board of directors and staff will attend, she said.

“There’s just no money left,” Stiles said.

“Even eliminating a few positions would not make a dent, and we’re already operating with minimal staff.”

In 2001, the then-board of directors agreed to remodel the center for an estimated $2.5 million. That project eventually resulted in an entirely new building, including a new gym, classrooms and offices.

But the Florida economy was hit by a recession around 2005, and building costs skyrocketed, according to contractors that worked on the project. The final cost was $4.5 million and the project took three years to complete.

The monthly mortgage payment “does put a dent” in the center’s financial position, Stiles said.

She said that she researched past audits and found the center was “in the black” before the building mortgage. She learned the center has operated “in the red,” she said, for eight years.

The meeting is to come up with reasonable and immediate solutions to continue operating the center, she said.

“Please — everyone — come,” Stiles said.

5 Responses to Public meeting June 4 called to ‘Save the Center’

  1. Carol Mason says:

    I am a regular visitor to the Island from the UK having just returned home last week. I took early retirement 2 years ago from my post of Community Development Manager for our local town. The problems being experience by AMICC are no different than those across the world with the current difficult economic times, however if I can I would like to make a few suggestions which may help generate some income to the centre, though I agree the monthly mortgage repayments would be a constant uphill battle.

    1) The centre could run their own small businesses from the facility. Given the make up of the Island these could be a gardening service both for rental and residential properties. Cleaning services again for both rental and residential properties. A shopping service for vulnerable people on the Island who may not be able to shop for themselves.

    2) I am sure that the centre may currently hold some sort of Luncheon Club but for elderly vulnerable people these can prove a lifeline. Most people are prepared to pay a fee for a hot lunch, whilst at the same time getting them out of their homes and meeting other people.

    3) I believe that the centre own a minibus/van perhaps this can be used as some sort of taxi service.

    I have more ideas but do realise how difficult it is to maintain the running costs of such a building.

    Good luck and regards

    Carol Mason

  2. Paula Coker-Jones says:

    What a shame it would be for the Island to lose such a resource. So many children have been kept safe by that organization. I would like to send a small donation to help. I wish it were more. What is your mailing address??

  3. Paula Coker-Jones says:

    I would hate for the Island to use such a valuable resource. It is a shame that the churches and local governments haven’t rallied behind an effort to help save the center. This community needs this center. With so many bad options out there for young people, the Community Center has been a constant to keep children and youth safe over the years.

  4. Cody Wood says:

    From what I understand, the Community Center is independently owned. If that is true, has there been any thought to see if ownership could be transferred to Manatee County?

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