Mission Hill Main Streets takes budget hit

By David Taber

Gazette Staff


Mission Hill Main Street (MHMS), a nonprofit that supports and advocates for Mission Hill’s business district, saw a budget shortfall this year that forced the lay-off of one of its two staff members.

“I had a good run…I look at it as time to move on,” said Barry Twomey, who served as MHMS’s part-time project coordinator until he was let go last month.

There are 20 Main Streets organizations in the city. Each is an independent nonprofit that receives funding and significant oversight and support from the city.

The city funding includes a $30,000-a-year salary for one staff member, and $25,000 a year from a city-run foundation for operating expenses.

It was thanks to regular support from institutions in the Longwood Medical Area (LMA) that MHMS was able to hire the extra part-time staffer, said Dermot Doyne, president of MHMS’s board of directors.

“Institutions in general are not as generous now” because of the recession, Doyne said.

Doyne said this year’s budget shortfall means private institutional support is also not available for an expected raise for MHMS Executive Director Richard Rouse. MHMS programming will not be affected.

On the city funding side, the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) is in the process of strengthening its financial oversight of Main Streets groups. That effort comes in the wake of a discovery by the board of Jamaica Plain’s Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street last month that $20,000 received from the city is missing, DND director Evelyn Friedman told the Gazette. DND oversight of Main Streets organizations is based on a contract the city signs with each group and renews annually, Friedman said.

Rouse told the Gazette that he had not heard about the planned oversight changes, but that he welcomes them, and that MHMS runs a tight ship. “I can’t write a check without two signatures. I do not have a credit card,” he said.

Doyne declined to say what institutions had cut back on funding or discuss any details of MHMS’s budget

He said the board would have kept Twomey on if they could. “I can not say enough nice things about the guy,” Doyne said.

Rouse echoed those comments. “It stinks,” he said of Twomey’s departure. “I would love to get him back. That’s my goal. I miss him,” Rouse said.

Rouse said he is going to redouble his fund-raising efforts, and that he plans to hold a “grand soiree” in November.

Twomey said he is probably not interested in returning. He will likely stay involved with community organizing on the Hill, he said. He may work with the Mission Hill Health Movement, which his first MHMS boss, Maggie Cohn, now runs.

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