Senior Center asks Meredith for 43% reduction in rent

MEREDITH — The Community Action Program of Belknap-Merrimack Counties (CAPBM) has asked the Board of Selectmen to reduce the annual rent the agency pays to operate the Inter-Lakes Senior Center at the Community Center from $14,000 to $8,000.

At a workshop yesterday, Pam Jolivette, director of Elderly Services at CAPBM, told the selectmen that the request was based on comparing the rent at the Community Center, which has housed the senior center for the past eight years, to what it pays for other comparable facilities. She explained that the agency has lost $85,000 in federal funding due to the sequester and another $63,000 in funding from Granite United Way. She explained that to sustain its programs and services at their current levels, the agency has reduced staff hours and eliminated positions while exploring further budget reductions and alternative sources of funding.

The senior center is one of 10 operated by the agency and serves Meredith, New Hampton and Center Harbor. The center provides meals-on-wheels, congregate dining, and transportation services as well as exercise and wellness programs.

Selectman Peter Brothers said that "it's painful to sit here and hear about the reductions," but then reminded Jolivette that "we too are experiencing drops in revenue while operating costs continue to rise." He noted that the operating budget for the Community Center has grown from $348,000 in 2007 to $441,500 in 2013 and "revenues are as flat as they can be. These lines cross each other at the wrong place," he remarked. "Long story short, we're in a very similar situation as you are."

Although Brothers was pleased to hear CAPBM was reducing costs, he said "I'm having a hard time looking at the request." He pointed out that the senior center uses 1,585-square-feet, which includes the office of the director of the senior center, of the 18,000-square foot facility for about half-a-day. In addition, he said that the center uses the kitchen appliances, which he anticipated would need replacing in the near future.

Brothers said that apart from leasing the Community Center the town makes an annual appropriate to CAPBM, which he described as "a pretty significant contribution." He sought assurance that Meredith's contribution is "not out of proportion."

Town Manager Phil Warren reminded the Selectboard that revenues from the Community Center have risen from $149,000 to $175,000 during the past several years. He said that after resetting rates "we're in the market," but cautioned against increases that would "price ourselves out of the market."

"I'm torn," said Selectman Lou Kahn, who said there was no way to calculate a rent based on the amount of space and intensity of use. "I'm inclined to give them a break," he remarked, "but not the break they're asking for."

The board asked Jolivette to provide more information on the services the senior center provided to the residents of Meredith and agreed to consider the request in the course of preparing the 2014 municipal budget.