Community centers in ‘rebuilding phase’

The 2010 consolidation of four local community centers down to two, and the year-long closing of Curtis Hall while it went underwent reconstruction last year, contributed to the Jamaica Plain Community Centers’ (JPCC) recent rate hikes, according to JPCC chair Kerry Costello.

The rates were raised at Curtis Hall and the Hennigan Community Center in January, sparking controversy about youth programs being forced to move out.

“We were able to weather the storm, but it was very difficult,” said Costello in an interview with the Gazette. “We are on an even keel now.”

She added later, “Given how we had to consolidate space and programs, we’ve done an admirable job.”

Costello said revenue was down while JPCC went through the reorganization and that was one factor in the rate increase. But she reiterated that JPCC had not raised rates for some time and that also played a part in the decision.

“We would have been looking at our rates anyway,” said Costello.

She added, “We had to rebuild all year. We really have been in a rebuilding phase.”

Costello said that JPCC is audited every year and that the organization is financially healthy. She said the only facet of her life that she is conservative in is her spending of JPCC money.

“I’m a liberal by nature,” she said.

JPCC was slated to hold a meeting this week where the first draft of next year’s budget would be presented. Costello said she is “cautiously optimistic” going forward.

JPCC is a private nonprofit that manages the local community centers, which are operated by the City of Boston. The City’s 2010 plan to close several community centers, including ones at English High and the Agassiz School in JP, was hotly controversial. At the time, Costello learned of the plan to close the English High center from the Gazette, not from the City.

At that time, the City planned to put English and Agassiz into the hands of some other private organization, but none ever materialized, and there was no plan B.

Sandy Holden, spokesperson for Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF), wrote in an email that the City has not received any formal communication from JPCC about the Hennigan rate increase.

Holden was unable to provide more detail about a committee that, as the Gazette previously reported, is on a formal agreement between BCYF and the nonprofit organizations, such as JPCC, that help run the community centers. Holden said the agreement would cover a “variety of topics.” She said the committee was at work prior to the JP community centers controversy that began last month.

Costello said she does not recall receiving any letter about the new committee, but says defining the relationship between the councils and the city is an ongoing work of progress. She said she wants to be part of the discussion when important matters are decided upon.

“I don’t think my voice is heard when decisions are being made,” said Costello.

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