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Board aims to keep senior center open

It votes to request $160,000 from a memorial foundation, though the move is not without controversy.

February 20, 2014|By Hannah Fry | This post has been corrected, as noted below.

The Costa Mesa Senior Center board on Tuesday requested $160,000 from a memorial foundation to replenish the center's dwindling funds.

If approved, the money would be debited in four transactions — starting May 1, 2014, and ending May 1, 2015 — from the Albert Dixon Memorial Foundation.

Board members voted 7 to 2 to approve the request, with board members Stella Adkins and Barbara Echan dissenting.

"We're going to keep hammering it to the city's attention," said board member Ron Frankiewicz. "We have three years worth of help to solve the financial issues. We've given everyone a fair warning. No one can say they didn't know."

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The center established the Albert Dixon Memorial Foundation after receiving a large donation from the estate of a former member.

The foundation's primary objectives are "to provide funds for the disadvantaged and aged and to support the programs and activities of the Costa Mesa Senior Center," according to a Jan. 7 independent audit report.

The City Council last year voted to hire Costa Mesa-based Management Partners to investigate the center's finances. It spent several months reviewing paperwork and conducting 26 interviews.

The audit found that the senior center — since 1987 an independent nonprofit that now serves 300 to 400 seniors a day — will run out of money in its general fund by June.

After the city and Daily Pilot published the report, board members and staff began discussing ways to improve the center's financial outlook.

Members raised the idea of requesting money from the foundation, which proved to be controversial.

In a somewhat tense debate Tuesday, several seniors in the audience as well as Adkins voiced concerns about the foundation money replenishing the general fund instead of going toward activities at the senior center.

"The Albert Dixon money is to be used for seniors and programs and not everyday operating expenses for the center," Adkins said.

She suggested that staff provide the board with legal documentation proving that Dixon did not specify how the money was to be used, as Aviva Goelman, the center's executive director, asserted several times during the discussion.

Frankiewicz agreed that the "rumor is something to look into," but encouraged board members to act quickly and approve the transfer.

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