MTM Center Report

By Mark Stevens Recreation Director - July 1, 2008

Just a few years ago the Marion T. Morse School was an empty lifeless shell of a building. The exterior was painted red, blue and yellow and the playground was at times an unsafe place to play and considered the Lisbon Falls eyesore. There were some doubt among the citizens as to the future of the building, since it was given to the town by the school department and labeled unfit for the educational purposes due to the many maintenance problems that still existed.

The MTM Board of Directors was originally appointed by the Selectmen for a one year term, and charged with assessing the space needs of several local organizations. The board was also charged with developing policy and providing oversight of the operations. I was directed by town manager Curtis Lunt to manage the building and operate as the staff liaison for the MTM BOD. The first challenge the board had was to define the meaning of “Community Center” and we soon learned that everyone had a different opinion. I credit the Board for their hard work over the years working through differences and staying focused on the needs of the community and the needs of the building.

My responsibilities included, scheduling all rentals, collecting fees, developing and managing an operation budget, hiring and supervising of cleaning contractors, as well as making sure the building was always safe and secure.

One of the many challenges I faced, was having to be in two places at one time. With my main office still at the Town Office, I was often needed at the MTM Center. It seemed to me that when I was at the MTM Center, people would ask why I wasn’t at the town office. When I was at the Town office, people would ask why I wasn’t watching over the MTM Center.

These newly added challenges were more than just collateral duties to my current job. It was a tremendous amount of responsibility that came without a pay increase. However, I accepted the challenge and was determined to convince the public that the MTM Center was worth the money spent to keep it open.

The MTM Center operations gained in credibility and the budget passed with out any problems at the next couple of Town Meetings. The revenue expectations were exceeded and the facility became increasing popular. Scheduling of the gym and meeting rooms became a bigger part of my day to day tasks.

Along with more use of the building came a greater need for security, maintenance, cleaning and supervision. I spent a lot effort trying to save money in my fuel budget by turning off the boilers for a few hours or days at a time to conserve fuel. I would always be closing windows, and turning off lights.

The Recreation Committee and the Board of Directors agreed with me that there needed to be a greater staffing presence at the Center, and requested that the Recreation Department move their offices and staff effective December 2006.

For the past year and a half the Recreation Department has been well established at the MTM Center. We have nearly 200 participants that have gone through training and became members of the fitness Center. In addition dozens of groups and hundreds of people have utilized the rooms and gym for special events. People know where we are and know the times of when we are open. To change the hours of operation and move my office back to the town office would be creating confusion and would be no benefit to the department or the public. I am concerned with the increase in liability the town will have with no permanent staff at the Center during the day times hours.

Since I have had the opportunity to be a part of the MTM Center, I have seen first hand the generosity and out pouring of support the people of Lisbon are willing to give. Here are some examples.

Alfred Smith, donated thousands of hours, saving the town thousands of dollars, while fixing, cleaning, shoveling, and mowing. Al’s standards are as high as they come and he is always caring how the MTM Center is perceived by the Town. Al would never accept money for his labor, nor would he like to be recognized publicly for his deeds. I have known Al all my life as a neighbor, and friend.

Gordon Curtis has donated many hours at the MTM Center. On many occasions when a contractor needed to be called, Gordon would come in and fix the problem. Gordon is a long time resident that has had many ties to the community as a leader, coach, and parent.

Master Chief Nicholson organized a group of newly appointed BNAS Chiefs to paint the exterior of the MTM Center. This saved the town several hundreds of dollars.

Christine Nicholson, resident of Addison Street, maintains the war monument for the past several years. Purchases flowers, fencing, and strives to keep kids from climbing and littering on the monument. Master Chief Nicholson is also a fire fighter. He and his wife moved here with the Navy several years ago and are considering retiring here.

Steven Bard; excavator contractor and local business man, donated over $2000.00 with labor and materials to create a beach volleyball court last summer. Steve Bard and his wife Tammy went to Lisbon HS and now have kids participating in the Lisbon Recreation Programs.

Patrick Maloy; Donated labor and materials to assist in the creation of the MTM Park, and also assisted in the construction of the fitness center. Pat is another local business man that grew up in Lisbon. His wife Jessica coaches our youth soccer program.

Brian Soucy; Saved the town hundreds of dollars in labor fees hooking up our internet and TV cables. Children all went to Lisbon HS, and now two of his sons will be serving in Iraq this fall. Dolly and Brian have given to our community for years while working down at the Teen Center.

Lise Tancrede, Pam Hogan, and Cindy Austin spent several hours over three days painting walls, and making curtains to enhance the appearance of the fitness center.

Pine Knoll; George Janosco, Kevin Janosco donated materials and labor to enhance the appearance the front of the MTM Building.

Bill Barr; Historical Society member, Manages the flags out front of the building recognizing when they need to be lowered to honor an American. Was a pharmacist at Roberts Pharmacy for years.

Sun Shine Hill Grant; Local family who believes in the Recreation Department’s mission. Has donated $84,000.00 to the department. Most of the equipment in the fitness center was purchase by the SSH.

These people are a fraction of the people that have volunteered and or donated to the Recreation Department over the years. I listed these because they were the most recent to have made a positive impact on the MTM Center saving the town a lot of money. If I were to quantify the labor and donations the total would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars saved by the town. People donate their valuable time and money to causes they believe in and trust.

With lots of help from my staff and support from the MTM neighbors, boards, committees, friends, families, and Council, we have been able to change a lifeless shell of a building to an active and thriving Family Community Center and Park for the town of Lisbon. Outpouring of support for the only community center we have.