Officially, Rex M. Dye, the 65-year-old executive director of the Human Services Assn., will retire after this week.
About 150 supporters, friends and politicians flocked to a retirement ceremony for Dye on Monday afternoon at the social service agency's Bell Gardens headquarters. There they heaped praise on the man they described as "remarkable," "energetic" and "dynamic."
There were kisses and hugs, plaques of recognition, thanks and good wishes.
But in reality, Dye--who has helped mold the private, nonprofit agency into a successful organization that serves thousands of needy people in a dozen Southeast cities--will be as busy as ever using his influence to fight for the agency's future.
Agency at a Crossroads
Dye's retirement after 20 years with the association comes as the agency reaches a crossroads in its mission to provide meals, legal advice and health- and child-care services to poor, sick and elderly residents.
Because of that, Dye said that although he had eagerly awaited retirement, he will return to his office next month as a consultant, directing the agency's effort to move from its location on Ludell Street near Ajax Avenue to another site by next April.
The agency began talking about moving last year after it was awarded a $265,000 grant from the state Department of Aging to upgrade the Ludell Street facility, which is owned by the Presbytery Synod of Southern California.
Dye said the agency planned to use the grant to restore the former church, which it has occupied rent-free since 1948, and add a housing complex for the elderly.
The Department of Aging originally offered the money to the agency on the condition it be used by April, 1988, or be forfeited to another social service agency.
However, when the agency contacted the city last year to find out whether its remodeling plans "were consistent with theirs, we found out they weren't," Dye said.
The city, which had designated the land around the nearby, lucrative Bicycle Poker Club for various redevelopment projects, refused to issue building permits for any long-term renovations at the Ludell Street site because it is in an area that was targeted in 1979 for redevelopment. But the city did not order the agency to move.
State officials agreed to allow the agency to use the renovation grant to pay for moving costs, Dye said. The state also extended the deadline for using the money until next April.
The agency and the Presbyterian church are looking for a new location where they can build a combined social services agency and 75-unit housing complex for the elderly, Dye said. One possible site is a strip of county-owned land across town.
"We've been trying to secure a location," Dye said. "You can't put in a proposal (to use the money) if you don't have property. We could lose the money."
City officials, who have made no other offers to buy property in the strip of redevelopment land stretching eastward from Eastern Avenue between Florence Avenue and Ludell Street, have agreed to pay the Presbyterian church $625,000 for the property and hold it until they are ready to begin building on it.
"We've made no plans at this time for that area," City Manager Claude L. Booker said. "But we've been cooperating with (the agency) to assist them with their project."
Booker declined to say when the city would be ready to start redevelopment in the area or what type of commercial project would be considered.
However, the City Council already has approved various redevelopment projects for several sites near the area.
This week, the City Council voted to begin construction of a shopping center on 15.5 acres of redevelopment land two blocks from the agency. The project, which will use $15 million in city money to tear down a two-block-long row of small shops along Eastern Avenue near Florence Avenue and build a modern shopping complex, is the second one in the area to be approved in a year.
One block away, plans are under way for a hotel and office complex.
Dye said that although he is shopping with almost $1 million--the state grant money and the revenue expected when the city buys the property--it has been difficult to find a new location because of high real estate costs.
"The $625,000 will only get us an empty lot," said Dye, and the $265,000 will only begin to pay for construction costs. He said that he will begin looking into other grants and low-interest loans to build the new social service agency and senior complex.
When asked, Dye said he does not plan to try to coax the city into declassifying the Ludell Street property and allowing the agency to remain.
"If we get into those kinds of battles, we never will get anything done," he said.