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Paris, Rumford CareerCenters cutting back
PARIS -- Budget cuts and a call by Gov. Paul LePage to increase the work skills of Maine laborers will mean a change in services and relocation of the Western Maine Community Action satellite CareerCenters in Paris and Rumford by Sept. 1.
“The connection is still going to be there. We have not closed the CareerCenter,” Jim Trundy, general manager of the Western Maine Community Action, said on July 24.
What will happen, Trundy said, is a loss of one of two staff members at the Paris and Rumford satellite centers, the loss of the computer labs and a move to new space within the same towns by Sept. 1 for both centers.
The Rumford center may stay in its current space on Lowell Street but in a different room while the Paris center on Route 26 will probably find new space elsewhere in that community.
“There will be an increase in job skill training but there is a need to reduce our footprint in both Paris and Rumford,” Trundy said.
With a $130,000 cut in its annual $1 million budget, Trundy said there was no choice but to reduce some of the more expensive items like the computer labs and the center space.
“It's a big piece of what the public sees,” he said. The computer lab occupies five rooms in Paris and are used by clients trying to find work. “If you're looking for a job and have a hard time finding work you come here.”
With the loss of the computer lab and two staff members in the two satellite CareerCenters, people will have to schedule times to meet with the one remaining staff member. Currently, clients come into the CareerCenter and can look on their own for work on the computers.
“This is happening pretty quickly. My intention is that the computer lab will be there until at least Aug. 31,” he said.
Trundy said the computers' cost is from the connectivity charged. "It costs about $500 per month for those computers,” he said. Between two offices, the removal of the computer lab will save about $14,000 a year in the budget, he said.
Trundy said he is working with community partners to try to find a way to restore the computer lab, perhaps through a library. The computer labs at both centers will probably be donated somewhere, he said.
While the news comes as a surprise to many, it is not all bad news, Trundy said.
"The emphasis will be on spending more money on training. We're trying to answer the demands of the administration. People need work skills. So that's our focus,” he said.
There will be an increase in money for tuition — from 20 percent to 25 percent annually.
WMCA is one of 10 community action agencies in Maine that has provided services to low- and moderate-income people in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties over the last four decades to help match employees with employers. WMCA is overseen by a board that is 51 percent private sector partners and the remainder community agencies. They set policy, Trundy said.
“It took a great deal of soul searching to come to this decision,” he said.