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Center scrambling to come up with funds

CHESAPEAKE — The Thanksgiving holidays were not as bright as they had been last year for the staff at the Chesapeake Community Center. No money meant no paychecks for the director and three part-time employees.

“Right now as of today (Wednesday), I have about $100 in the bank,” Charles Case, community center board member, said. “Payroll was due today, but it can’t be paid. We just didn’t have the money. There are sky high gas bills in the winter and we are paying them in arrears all summer.”

Typical biweekly payroll for the four staff members is $600.

The low number of memberships has cut into the income coming into the center added to high utility costs.

“We got hit with a water bill from Aqua Ohio for $500 one month for usage of 67,000 gallons,” Case said.

Normal monthly water usage averages 7,000 gallons. The center hasn’t been able to track down why there was such a high usage that one month.

“They tested the meter,” he said. “We have got to be able to prove a leak (to get the bill forgiven.)”

Another reason for high utility bills is that the center is the headquarters for the Community Mission Outreach food pantry that houses a large refrigeration unit.

Earlier this month the center’s board had a special Sunday meeting to come up with ways to increase revenue for the center.

“The real need is memberships,” Case said. In the spring it looked like we had 60 to 70. Looks like (in November) we had a total of 35 paying members and that includes 10 new ones. My initial guess is the cold building had a lot to do with that. Why bother going in, if it is not going to be warm.”

To bring in more members, the center is offering three ways to save on memberships. If an individual joins by Jan. 5, the fee is $20 a month or a $5 monthly savings. If the prospective member signs up with autodeduct from a checking account, it is $15 a month or $180 for a one-time payment for the year.

“We have never really done anything like this, offering discounts,” Case said. “We want people to come out not because we are needing their support, but we believe it is good for their health.”

On top of the discounts the center is also renovating the rooms that house the exercise equipment and cleaning out upstairs rooms to rent out to individuals or non-profits for $200 a month.

“We are painting them and moving the equipment,” John O’Connor, also on the center’s board, said. “We are actively trying to get some more rentals.”

Anyone interested in joining the center or leasing upstairs space can contact the director, Ruth Damron at 867-4532.