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Publication Date: Friday, February 07, 2003

New community center scrapped New community center scrapped (February 07, 2003)

City budget woes undermine plan to rebuild aging facility

By Candice Shih

The city this week incurred another casualty in its struggle with the bad economy: the new community center.

During Tuesday's study session, city council members agreed that there are simply not enough city funds for both the $17.5 million plan to build a new senior center -- the current one is seismically unsafe -- and the $15.5 million community center.

In addition, design for the community center has reached a natural stopping point and funds from that project may be transferred to the senior center project, said Cathy Lazarus, the city's public works director. That would leave about $2.5 million still needed for the senior center.

The community center project would have rebuilt the existing one at Rengstorff Park. It was intended to become a meeting place for nonprofits the city supports and would have also featured an improved auditorium and kitchen facilities for a popular senior lunch program.

But Council member Rosemary Stasek arguued that the city could only rebuild one of the facilities, and it had to choose the one that was in worse shape.

"It's been four years since we met in that dank little community center and decided it needed to be ripped out. ... What are you going to do? We've got a crappy building and we've got a really crappy building," she said. "We put so much into this project, but we have a responsibility to the community to just get real."

Council member Matt Neely lamented the loss of the meeting space for nonprofits and said he hoped the city could provide the space somewhere else.

On the flip side, Council member Greg Perry said he was convinced that rebuilding the community center was a poor idea from the start. He has railed against the proposal for nearly two years now, since his brief 2001 stint on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The council will next be deciding how to proceed with the senior center project. It could choose to receive bid proposals, resulting in a project that would conclude in November of 2007, or it could use a currently identified firm and save one year.

Council member Nick Galiotto said he would support expediting the senior center project, which he made a priority during his recent campaign.

But Perry asked for more information, given that $1.5 million may be spent on the architectural firm. "I would expect Eiffel Tower-scale designs for that amount of money," he said.

Until the new senior center is completed, an interim center adjacent to the current one on Escuela Avenue will be utilized for senior center activities.

E-mail Candice Shih at


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