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MRCI to end TAC contract

WORTHINGTON -- The non-profit organization and provider of community-based supported employment and center-based extended employment that manages The Achievement Center (TAC) will discontinue its contract early next year.

Citing financial losses, the MRCI Board of Directors voted to discontinue Worthington's TAC operation and announced the decision in a press release issued Tuesday. Pam Year, MRCI's CEO, visited Worthington Tuesday to inform TAC personnel and the media of the decision.

"We've been talking with our staff about this for the last year or so," Year said. "We made an attempt last year to attract an Iowa provider similar to MRCI, but that didn't materialize. ... We tried to make another go of it, but it was just too much of a strain on our other service systems."

MRCI reports that since 1999 -- when it took over TAC from Worthington's Client Community Services Inc. (CCSI) -- the location has lost $1.28 million. Year said Nobles County officials had been notified prior to Tuesday's Worthington visit, and an exact agreed-upon exit date for MRCI will be negotiated.

"MRCI has been working with Nobles County officials for some time in an effort to solve the financial problems," Year said. "We feel the county could create something -- perhaps another non-profit to manage TAC."

Year added that MRCI would be available to consult with such a non-profit if it opted to do so. County and state officials will pursue all available possibilities, she said.

There are 128 people currently at TAC, Year said, with about 25 to 30 percent of them from Nobles County. There are 18-to-20 staff members, she stated.

While "the board expressed concern over the decision," Year said she couldn't "imagine that a population that needs service will be left in the lurch."

Since MRCI took over TAC from CCSI in the late '90s because of new legislation that prohibited CCSI from operating both residential and day-treatment programs, MRCI has operated TAC out of a CCSI-owned facility at 414 Industrial Lane. Marty Rickers, executive director of CCSI, said his group has been renting the building to MRCI for $1 a year.

Rickers said Wednesday afternoon he had hoped MRCI could make a go of TAC, but also realized the financial issues.

"The thought was if that we could get a day-treatment provider in there that had more of an economy of scale, a bigger base, and an opportunity to bring in more work, it could get The Achievement Center back to basically a break-even fiscal position," Rickers said. "That was the hope.

"We're sitting here trying to do budgets for July 1, and there's not enough money to cover expenses today," he added. "We're having the same types of challenges (as MRCI) in the residential field."

Rickers said CCSI was losing "six figures every year" on TAC when its operation was taken over by MRCI. TAC was founded in 1968 by CCSI.

"I'm concerned from two standpoints -- that the building is used ... and doesn't sit vacant. But the bigger concern is if there's no vocational programming in that building, people that reside in our group homes won't have a place to go to work. The county is the one that really needs to be involved with this, and I'm sure they are."

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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