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Cutbacks in hours, services at Holden Community Center

March 27, 2011

CENTRAL FALLS — State Receiver Robert G. Flanders, Jr. has announced several staff reductions, cutbacks in hours, and other operational changes at the Ralph J. Holden Community Center at 361 Cowden St. in an effort to reduce the center's current fiscal year deficit of $66,327 by more than half.
According to a press release from the Governor's office, the changes, which went into effect Thursday, include the lay-offs of eight part-time employers. Eleven remaining staff members will work reduced hours, while the center's director, assistant director, and part-time controller will not be subject to a reduction in hours.
The hours of operation at the center have been cut back to 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday. Previous hours were 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Transportation services will be reduced to Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Previous hours were Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The BeforeCare program, which provides before-school care and transportation for 12 youngsters, has been eliminated. Families have been referred to other child care providers and community organizations which provide similar services. The AfterCare program, which provides after-school care and transportation for 20 youths, will continue with consolidated staffing.
Breakfast services will be eliminated, but lunch services will continue.
The pool, which was recently closed due to a maintenance issue, will remain closed until further notice in accordance with a freeze on all non-essential expenditures.
Flanders said these changes are necessary to help mitigate a projected deficit for the center of $66,327 for the remainder of the current fiscal year. By implementing these changes, it is estimated that the city will save approximately $35,000 in personnel costs and operating costs for the remainder of the fiscal year, thereby reducing the projected deficit for the center to approximately $31,000.
The press release also stated that the Office of the State Receiver continues to investigate additional measures for cost savings in an effort to further reduce the projected deficit.
Ana Soares, executive director of the Ralph J. Holden Community Center, said that the cutbacks are “definitely going to have an impact on the community.” She said that the senior citizens are the most affected, due to the reduction in the hours for transportation as well as the closing of the center's swimming pool.
The pool, Soares said, was used by many local seniors for water aerobics and recreational swimming. She noted, however, that a motor that maintains the pool is not working, so due to the costs involved with maintenance, the decision was made to shut it down. “They are very upset. They want the pool to be open,” Soares said. “But, what are you going to do? The city is in a great financial bind right now.”
Soares stressed that the center's senior program will continue from noontime on, so seniors will still be able to get meals and assistance with referrals, filling out food stamp applications and other resources that the center provides.
Soares said that the cutbacks are “understandable, considering the financial problems that the city is undergoing. Unfortunately, the residents are the ones that suffer. In tough times, social services are the first to go.”
Soares added that a group of seniors are planning to hold a meeting at the center on Monday at 1 p.m. to discuss the cutbacks.

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