New teen center board looks to rebrand
Published 12:00 am, Friday, September 18, 2015
Despite expectations that the Outback Teen Center would revert to the town this summer, a board of directors has taken control and hopes to relaunch a “completely rebranded” facility to serve the wider community, the new chairman said.
Bob Albus, the founding president of the Outback Teen Center, is in charge of the new body, and said the group is looking to open the building “sooner than later” for use in the community beyond youth as it seeks to reestablish a workable financial model.
“We have a new mandate and a mission statement focused on providing access if you will to a broader constituency and build a more sustained financial model,” Albus said. “All of that is a work in progress.”
Albus declined to explicitly address whether funding for the center would come from rent from specific groups using the facility or a timetable for when youth programs might resume.
“We are first and foremost looking to provide access to needy groups that may or may not involve some monetary compensation,” Albus said. “It could involve groups that would like to make use of the facility that would pay to help defray the cost of running it.”
At the last Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said he and other town officials were working to facilitate getting the new board in touch with interested groups who might want to operate out of the facility.
This summer the Outback’s previous board announced and then abandoned a campaign to attempt to raise about $10,000 to avert a shutdown of the teen center over the summer after lengthy discussions with the town over proposals that included more municipal financing.
In the spring, leaders of the non-profit cut drop-in hours and stopped scheduling events because of a $80,000 funding shortfall. Mallozzi and other town leaders did not act on a proposal from the facility’s board proposing a three-year pilot partnership with the town which would include $83,000 in additional budget funding a year to run the center.
The town also withheld a $19,000 appropriation of town money to support the Outback’s programming, making its approval conditional on town human services officials deeming the center’s business plan to be self-sustaining.
At last Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Mallozzi told his fellow board members that the reconstituted board might still look to the town for financing. Mallozzi said he is hopeful the new board would help find a creative solution. Mallozzi said the planned reversion of the center building this summer to the town was held back by a complicated lease agreement.
“I see what we are doing with the Lapham Community Center; there is a great track record of success there,” he said during the meeting at Town Hall. “It is hard to get that excited about the Teen Center because there was not a lot of great success in the last three, four years, and I think the onus is really going to be on them to find the right partners to make it work.”
Selectman Nick Williams said most of the community wants to see the teen center continue in a form that is financially sustainable.
“If they come up with an innovative new model that works, I personally would step forward and support them financially, but I think we all know the old model was not working — throwing good money after bad,” Williams said.