This year I believe the trust has been learning the lessons of running a large community facility on a non-profit basis, with revenue, expenses and exceptional costs challenging in every sense.
I believe within the group of trustees we have an amazing group of individuals that each in their own way bring something to the great group dynamic that we have.
We have maintained the community centre to a high level of cleanliness. We have contracted with a cleaner to clean the centre twice a week, Mondays to recover the centre from our busy weekend schedules with private party hire, we also clean on a Friday to make sure the centre has recovered from the busy weekly schedule that we have built up this year ready for the weekend hires.
We are constantly completing maintenance within the hall.
This year we have repaired the wall in the main hall with marine ply and colour coded it with the wall to protect from use of sports groups, painted the hall and reception area, meeting room and internal doors to ensure that the decoration does not become tired. We have installed child proof finger protection to all doors within the centre to protect from accidents, replaced bulbs and ceiling tiles throughout the centre. We are currently looking at options to clean the reception hall carpet, again to prevent the centre from looking used and tired.
We have run into many issues of vandalism (exceptional costs) around the outside facilities. We had every light in the car park kicked out of the ground and smashed, the wooden teenage shelter outside the MUGA is under constant attack, having the wooden bars kicked out and the felt roof tiles removed and thrown across the field. We have had to, after many lengthy trustee debates as to the right decision, removed the benches from under the canopy of the pavilion, due to the constant littering, fire and a general group mentally within this area bothering other users of the park and field area. We have had a number of gate closers on the large gates by the lower carpark smashed on three occasions at a considerable cost to the trust. Someone rode a motorbike across the newly laid cricket square causing damage to both the pitch and fencing. Many trees on the site have been repeatedly broken, we have had an industrial chain and padlock stolen from the rear gate by the containers on the field and finally many holes have been cut into the high fence that protects the houses on the perimeter of the field.
All of this damage has been rectified incurring considerable and unnecessary cost.
We have also had electrical issues in both the centre with sockets tripping out, canopy lights tripping out and the pavilion has suffered faulty breakers and problems with the fire alarm systems. Again we have had to spend money to correct.
We have worked hard to encourage the developer Bloor Homes to support the community facilities whilst they have been finishing the last phase of the housing on the site. They approached the trust for support where they had misjudged the space on their site and required our piece of land adjacent the lower carpark to gain access to the last phase. We managed to secure the trees being moved to the side of the field adjacent to the high fence, also the path that runs along the same fence from the lower carpark to the pavilion was tarmacked to improve the look and feel of the area, but more importantly gain better access for all. We are still awaiting the replacement of the fence and tarmac path along the side of the lower carpark out to Tanton Road from the field gate.
We have invested into the future of the facilities especially the sports side of keeping our community active. We have worked hard at gaining funding from outside bodies. We managed to secure £2000 from Stansted airport community fund alongside £3500 of matched funding secured from Uttlesford Community Fund. We invested this into a top of the range tennis net, basketball hoops and vandal proof goals for the MUGA.
We have invested in re-cutting the cricket square, at considerable expense, which will rest and settle this year and hopefully enable a good standard of cricket next season if a team can be secured to use the facility.
We have spent a huge sum of money, £1350 per month, during the growing season, maintaining and improving the field and surrounding landscaping for the use of football teams from Dunmow Rhodes Youth Football club, Michael Richardson Football Academy, as well for use by the community at large for great summer days and general dog walking.
We have installed benches and picnic tables in and around the park area that have proved to be very popular with the community.
We have recently installed at great expense new lampposts in the car park to replace the vandalised lights to improve the general feel and security of the centre in the darker hours of use.
As a group of trustees we consider the community first in every decision that we make.
Although we promised ourselves when we set out that we would just be trustees of the facilities we ventured into organising our first event, that being the outdoor cinema evening last September and we had approximately 400 people in attendance to an amazing event, that we received great feedback about. We will organise this on an annual basis moving forward.
We also organised a night with the stars, where we invited the north Essex astronomy club with their telescopes onto the field and had 100-200 people attend to look at the stars, again a great evening for the young and old.
We managed to secure 400 free trees from the forest stewardship council and organised for them to be planted in the community, by the community and again they didn’t disappoint, We managed to hand out all of the trees in about 1 1/2 hours and every tree was planted within a couple of hours. An amazing response from the residents.
We have built solid roles for our trustees around Treasurer, Bookings, Secretary, Parish Council links, IT and Social Media and have gained two new trustees from within the community.
The Trustees have completed many application forms for funding from outside bodies, in the process securing our charity of the year status with the Co-op, earning funding for the trust every time a member of our community shops in the local store and scans their membership card.
We used our first payment from the co-op to pay for repairs and maintenance to the children’s park facilities that we have at a cost of £1250. We have now set up a monthly payment plan to cover the cost of future surveys for the equipment to avoid large exceptional costs.
We have also secured a £20,000 funding from Essex County Council to upgrade the kitchen within the centre to ensure that we have a truly workable and future proof facility for hire.
In terms of revenue we have a solid weekly hirer list of regular users and we have a decent level of one off hirers, especially parties at the weekend. We have a package set up at £75 for 3 hours that has proved very popular for children’s parties. We have managed to secure revenue from both Flitch and chips and the Burger van that attends at the weekend in turn allowing them to be on our site to serve our visitors and members of our community.
Current Revenues allow us to cover our bills and invest into small projects to improve and maintain the centre and outdoor facilities. However this is dependent upon the annual maintenance grant from the Parish Council as without this the trust would not currently be cash generative. The trust are currently looking at further revenue generating opportunities and hope that investment in projects such as the new car park lighting are extraordinary one off expenditure items.
We are constantly trying to lower our costs and are very conscious of our bills. We challenge any differences that we see.
We have reviewed and moved all of our utility suppliers to secure better tariffs for the sites. We are currently challenging our water bills as they have increased significantly in recent months. We suspect a leak and other factors that we are currently investigating. We are changing all our lightbulbs where possible over to LED’s as and when they need replacing. We have moved away from the external field contractor that we used in 2017 and have now employed a member of our community, who has purchased a ride on mower, to maintain the field and landscaping around the site at a significant better rate than previous. We have secured the repainting of the car park markings at zero cost from the Stansted Airport Community Outreach program which represents a significant budgetary saving.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the trustees for their dedication and for the considerable time that they all invest in running and maintaining all of the facilities as well as supporting on centre tours and attending to resolve issues any hour of the day.
We receive very positive feedback from the many visitors to our centre and also comments that the playing field is second to none in the area according to the many visiting clubs that play football on our field.
These are amazing facility and we should all recognise that the community is lucky to have them.