Town awaiting ‘final answer’ on senior center takeover

Town awaiting ‘final answer’ on senior center takeover

Some worry Mancini Center officials may be selling off furnishings, letting workers go

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Mayor Charles Lombardi says the time has come for representatives for the town’s senior center to give up the keys to the facility and hand it over to the town.

“I’m just waiting for them to give us a final answer,” he said this week.

No one was picking up the phone at the Salvatore Mancini Resource and Activity Center on Monday.

At a forum last Tuesday, Karen Testa Leone, executive director of the Mancini Center, warned that layoffs could start happening as of last Friday if the Town Council didn’t vote to maintain funding for the center for another six to eight months.

The council declined the request.

Testa Leone, who was joined by a group of senior citizens, said senior center officials have never been opposed to the center becoming a town department, but said it takes time to dissolve a nonprofit agency like the senior center and it can’t happen by July 1.

The conflict between town and senior center officials has been going on for three years, with repeated legal action over town officials’ attempts to get more information on financial records at the center.

Senior center officials say they’ve provided all documentation they need to as a nonprofit organization.

The Town Council last month voted 4-3 to hold back the entire $510,000 grant to the senior center, voting instead to add $250,000 to the council budget to help maintain senior services if needed.

Lombardi said he was surprised to see Testa Leone speaking for the Mancini Center Board of Directors instead of two board members, John Fleming and Albert Peterson, who previously worked out a tentative deal to let the town assume control of the center. Those two board members were not in attendance at last week’s gathering, but three other board members were.

The mayor said he’s concerned that senior center officials will try to sell off everything in the building as they dissolve the organization. He said he “can guarantee” everything in the center was paid for by taxpayers.

“Don’t touch a thing, don’t sell a thing, just turn it over to the town,” he said. “We should be going in there July 1.”

If the board wants to do what’s right for seniors, they need to let town officials start running the center, keeping the jobs that he promised would be maintained, said Lombardi. He said board members “should be ashamed of themselves” if they allow people to lose their jobs.

Councilor Manny Giusti said he, too, is concerned about the idea of senior center officials selling off furniture and other items in the facility.

Councilor Raymond DeStefanis said he took offense to suggestions from Testa Leone, former Council President Kristen Catanzaro and others that the council is hurting the seniors by somehow closing the center. The council was willing to keep the doors open and the employees in place, he said.

Council President Dino Autiello said he was disappointed that senior center officials declined the takeover proposal, “and now it’s being painted as this council is the one to close the place down.”

“As we all know, that was not the case at all,” he said.

Autiello said he wasn’t fully on board with an agreement by Lombardi to keep all senior center employees on the payroll, but said he was willing to make an exception if it would put the ongoing conflict with the senior center to rest.

“That is really good for them,” he said. “I don’t understand why they wouldn’t accept that.”

The council president said the $250,000 should stay in the council’s budget until senior center officials get back to town leaders about what they plan to do.

Comments

You think a non profit can be run as efficiently by our town administration, you really think that? Look at how the town is run, the costs, the waste, the conflicted people, the nepotism, the corruption and just lack of financial management. I guarantee we the taxpayer will be paying 50% more to run the SC in 4-5 years. Don't forget this is the same town administration that lost control of the HUD program due to financial irregularities and not having financial controls that had to be turned over to another community. We have deficits that are approaching the $100 million mark, all disqualifies for the town taking over any more financial responsibility.

Grarnold is right!

The Town is not prepared to take this facility over? Who has the experience to Lead it?...Maybe our Public Safety Director (Mayor) can? This is another example of the dysfunction in the Town and the Mayor's Administration. I was in attendance at that last Town Council meeting, And Former Council President Catanzaro brought up many valid questions...that were fully not answered. Director Testa-Leone spoke facts, and common sense...You cant dissolve a Non profit that's be in business for this long in a few weeks? Mayor Lombardi stood in the back of the Room with his "Co-Mayor" Fossa making faces and shrugging the entire time.
The Mayor is in over his head again...and Im willing to bet alot of those belongings in there are not Town owned.
This all is the result of a another personal vendetta i.e. The Police and Fire Depts.
Mayor Lombardi a word to the wise - Start worrying about the legacy you are leaving, its not a good one right now. Public opinion is waning, and you're attitude towards things are really starting to show.
Do the right thing and let this Center transition the right way, the proper way...Not Your way.

The late John Dalberg-Acton said it best: " Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely"...
While this power play continues, the seniors that utilize the center are left in the dark..
Methinks something smells rotten in North Providence....