Community center rates an issue again

A local youth basketball tournament almost did not happen because of an unexpected fee at the Hennigan Community Center (HCC), but the chair of the organization that oversees HCC says the rules were followed.

Rob Lewis, who runs the tournament, said he thought he might have to cancel the tournament when he heard he had to pay a fee for Hennigan Community Center (HCC).

But Kerry Costello, chair of the Jamaica Plain Community Centers (JPCC), which oversees HCC, said the community center was following the rules and that Lewis missed guidelines for booking the center.

Lewis said he was gearing up for the 8th annual Gordon “Flash” Lewis Tournament, which is named after his deceased brother, when he was informed two weeks before the tournament that he would probably have to pay a fee to use HCC. Lewis said he had never paid a fee before to use HCC.

Lewis said that he was told by Martha Salamanca, program supervisor at HCC, that if he filled out the proper paperwork, he might not have to pay. Lewis filled out the paperwork, but said he was told by Salamanca it was too late for JPCC to review the paper and would have to pay a fee.

“Up to the last minute, I wasn’t sure I was going to have the tournament,” said Lewis, who also runs Hoopz Excellence, a basketball program for at-risk youths in the city.

But a friend of Lewis who runs a nonprofit stepped in and gave him the money for the fee, which was $640.

Costello said that Lewis was advertising the tournament before he even booked time for it at HCC. She said by the time he did, he had missed the opportunity for his paperwork to be reviewed for a waiver. Costello also noted that the tournament had a corporate sponsor, which might have disqualified Lewis from receiving a nonprofit waiver for the fee.

But, she said, Lewis was still given a significant reduced rate.

“We want to be accommodating as we can to groups,” said Costello. “But we have to make some money.”

HCC had not been changing fees to some programs under a previous program supervisor, as it should have been under JPCC rules. When Salamanca came in, those fees were applied.

That caused an issue last spring with two groups complaining about the rates, as the Gazette previously reported. One group left, while the other group returned, said Costello.

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