GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 15, 2013

Rockport tightens rules, eyes manager for Community House

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — Town officials have solidified new Community House rules and regulations and are looking for a new property manager for the building after some patrons complained that the property doesn’t always get a thorough cleaning after its been used.

The Broadway property lives up to its name; the Community House serves as the town’s Senior Center, hosts events for the Sandy Bay Historical Society, and is regularly home to art classes, yoga classes and numerous other functions.

But Board of Selectmen have since crafted rules outlining the fee structure during recent meetings. The rental areas now have fees ranging from $50 to $200 for a four-hour period depending on the nature of the event and the person or group renting it.

In addition, because some patrons leave rental areas unclean and damaged, the town is now requiring a credit card — like a hotel or inn — should a room need cleaning or repairs.

The rental spaces available include two second-floor rooms; one can hold up to 209 people and the other just under 250. Those are in addition to the first floor kitchen.

Diane Bertolino, Director of the Senior Center, said the property is sometimes left dirty and damaged, but she declined to specify on what specific areas have been affected, or in what way.

She said the seniors are probably the most frequent users, and added that having a facility manager would be a good idea.

Officials emphasized that the Community House needs to be preserved.

“The board feels strongly that residents be able to use and enjoy this building,” Erin Battistelli, who chairs the Board of Selectmen, wrote in an email to the Times. “And, because community preservation funds were already spent to renovate it, we want to keep it affordable for residents.

“However,” she added, “it is a special town asset that we need to protect and maintain and the board wants to ensure that there is adequate follow up after the rentals on the weekends and evenings to confirm the building is cleaned and secure.

Some other agreements in the rental regulations include a ban on any light shows, amplified music that can be heard beyond the Community House or any throwing confetti or rice, such as after a wedding.

The Community House underwent a controversial rehabilitation project to a tune of $2.2 million in 2009 through long-term borrowing from the town’s Community Preservation Act fund.

These funds were used to stabilize the second floor, where the rental rooms are, installing an elevator and making the building handicap accessible.

The town, through the Department of Public Works, hires a Gloucester-based cleaning company, Home-Work Handyman Service, to clean the town building.

Town Public Works Director Joe Parisi said that service was bumped up from two to three times per week, with $6,480 spent on cleaning services last year.

The property is currently managed by the Board of Selectmen through its office manager, and Battistelli said that anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a week are spent coordinating rentals.

“Given the workload this office already has,” she said, “it has been difficult and has not included some important tasks that the facilities person will be able to take on.”

The Personnel Board has since approved a annual stipend of up to $10,000 for the position, but selectmen have not yet worked out the final details.

Similar to the post of animal control officer, Battistelli noted, it will not be a full-time position but it would provide the town someone who could respond to problems as they arise. Any applicants, she said, must be ready for weekend work.

“To boil it down, we want to make sure that the Community House is kept in nice condition because it’s a beautiful building and it is used a lot ... which is great,” Selectmen Eliza Lucas wrote in an email to the Times. “But, because of that we need to be careful to take good care of it.”

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.