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February 06. 2013 9:27PM

TCCAP trustee seeks to hire new top management for agency

BERLIN - The special trustee assigned to right Tri-County Community Action Program's financial ship advocates hiring new top management for the financially strapped agency.

Since mid-December, court-appointed special trustee Todd Fahey, of law firm Orr & Reno, has been serving as top management at TCCAP with Peter Higbee, chief operation officer.

Fahey said he is still cautiously optimistic that TCCAP will remain a viable organization, but that going forward it will look slightly, if not remarkably, different. That includes revamping the organization's senior management, hiring a new chief financial officer and convening a new board of directors.

He said that the former central office top management had developed a culture of distrust, with program managers not kept informed as funds were shifted around. Fahey said that the central office will be restructured, with much greater transparency.

The agency is operating without an executive director and a chief financial officer.

The nonprofit agency serves the residents of Coos, Grafton and Carroll counties.

The first order of business was to keep services going without interruption.

"I'm happy to say we've succeeded in that," Fahey said. Next was to right the financial ship, which Fahey called "a bit adrift."

To do away with TCCAP and recreate an organization to administer and provide services in the three counties would be "incredible expensive" he said. Breaking the agency into three would triple central office overhead.

Speaking to media on Wednesday, Fahey and consultant John Gilbert of Synchrony Advisors had nothing but praise for TCCAP employees, who continue to invest energy into helping solve issues while coping with a reduction in their paychecks and benefits. They and Higbee also spoke highly of the donors and state officials who have been attentive as the agency moves forward.

One of the systemic issues that has challenged the cash flow is the timing of reimbursements for services provided to clients.

Higbee said he was in Concord Tuesday and spoke with officials about the slow reimbursements. Those at the state level, he said, told him the federal funds are coming in slower, too. "We're at the end of that line," he said.

It's been a steady shift, he said, from advances for programs to reimbursement.

Gilbert said that billing at the end of the month for work done during the month, and then waiting 30 more days for reimbursement creates a 45- to 60-day cash need. In the meantime, those who provided those services, and the bills from the associated expenses and materials, still need to be paid. Though the cash flow crunch has eased a bit, the organization would still be helped by a line of credit.

TCCAP has $4 million in long-term debt, requiring payments of $30,000 a month. Fahey said with an annual budget of $17 million to $20 million that amount of debt is manageable, and that TCCAP is current with its payments.

That debt does make it trickier for organizations thinking of taking over Northern Forest Heritage Park, which is one of the properties pledged as collateral. TCCAP is also looking for an entity, or group, to take over management of Northern Forest Heritage Park's re-creation logging camp because the park does not fit in with the agency's mandate.


syoungknox@newstote.com

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