Two organizations merging because of budgets

cafca | April 06, 2015 |

 

Shrinking budgets and looming state deficits are pushing the Bristol Community Organization and the Human Resources Agency of New Britain to become one entity as early as this fall, local organization officials announced Wednesday.

When the process is complete, longtime BCO Executive Director Tom Morrow, 66, said he will retire.

“I can’t see that there will be a need for two executive directors,” Morrow said. “My retirement will coincide with the merger, and we don’t have an exact date for that yet. There are a lot of things that have to researched and examined before the merger can go through.”

While the plan is to have all administrative operations run through the New Britain office, Morrow said the BCO board and supporters are adamant that all the programs in Bristol will remain in place.

“One of foundational aspects of the merger is that there be a full time Bristol presence,” he said. “Most, if not all, of our current staff will stay on.”

The target date for the merger is currently Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year, though both agencies run on a July 1 fiscal year.

“There’s a lot that needs to be done in that time, a lot to consider,” Morrow said.

Toward that end, in December, jointly, the Bristol and New Britain agencies, with guidance from local legislators, applied for a $40,000 Department of Social Services grant to be matched with a $20,000 grant from the Main Street Foundation. If approved, the grants will be used to hire a consultant to guide them through the merger, Morrow said. They are currently waiting to hear back from DSS.

Merging would entail a number of intricate details, that leaders said they don’t feel they’d be able to manage without assistance, like dissolving the BCO as a 501c3, deciding on a name, a financial audit, transferring funds and dealing with the two boards of directors “would be a whole other issue,” he said.

“This is what organizations have been doing themselves in response to the current state budget and seeing what future budgets are looking like,” said Rep. Whit Betts, Wednesday. Betts and Rep. Cara Pavalock met privately with Morrow this past summer to discuss the merger possibility.

“I think they are taking a very proactive approach to what has been pattern of reduced funding for years,” Betts said. “They have to become more efficient, but still address the needs of people in New Britain and Bristol.”

Betts said he is working with other legislators to write letters of support for the grant to the DSS.

“You can cross your fingers hope that state funding is maintained, but that’s unrealistic,” Betts said. “With this move, they are saying, ‘I’d rather control my own destiny.’ What they’re looking at makes a lot of sense. As legislators, we applaud the efforts of them and their boards to make themselves more self reliant.”

Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne, said he is also supportive of the merger.

“I’m told that nothing will change in Bristol. It’s just the consolidation of two organizations to make one stronger one,” he said.

The current BCO started out 51 years ago as The Economic Opportunities Commission, as an arm of the city of Bristol. In 1971, the agency became the BCO, a nonprofit agency devoted to providing services, opportunities and assistance to the city’s needy. It operates with an annual budget of $4.5 million.

Morrow joined the BCO in 1973, as neighborhood services coordinator. He left to work for the city of Bristol from 1981 until 1988, when he re-joined the BCO as executive director, a position he has held for 28 years.

The agency has about 50 employees. Two-thirds work part time, Morrow said, adding that not too long ago it had 100 employees.

The HRA of New Britain was founded in 1964. Like the BCO, its goal is to help impoverished individuals and families through its programs.

Both agencies offer children’s services, emergency assistance, employment and training, health and wellness and financial consultations and connections.

Eve Britton can be reached at ebritton@bristolpress.com or 860-973-1801.