Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Public Invited To Weigh In On New Directions For Community Centers, Including Possible Privitization

Seattle Parks and Recreation will be holding a special meeting tomorrow evening, to explore "new directions" for Community Centers and the public is invited to hear about the latest options as well as weigh in.

Because of the need to cut $10 million from the budget, the Parks Departmnet was directed by the Seattle City Council, to look at increased partnerships and alternatives for the operations, management, planning as well as fundraising of the community centers.

One of the Options proposed could partially or fully restore the current "limited use" status of the Laurelhurst Community Center, with operating hours reduced in January to 35 hours a week.

Though, four of the nine options include some form of privatization of Community Centers. Howver, the description listed under the options says that privatization may not be ideal due to the difficulty in regaining  a leased center when or if it is agan financially feasible, as well as the lag time between a community center closing and when it would be reopened by a private organization.

The North Seattle meeting will be held tomorrow at the Bitter Lake Community Center (13035 Linden Ave N) from 7 - 8:30 p.m.

The press release says:

In response to challenging budgets, Seattle Parks and Recreation has been asked by City Council to re-think how community centers are operated.

Over the past five months, ideas for changing how community centers are run have been developed with the help of a citizen advisory team. Now it is time for the broader community to weigh in on several options that have been suggested.

The nine proposed options are:

Option 1‐ Geographic Management of Community Centers: Organize community centers into seven geographic groups of three or four centers that are managed and programmed in a coordinated fashion,and partially or fully restore the current limited use sites. This option would partially or fully restore the current limited use sites (Alki, Ballard, Green Lake, Laurelhurst and Queen Anne).

Option 2‐Tiered Community Centers: Each community center is classified as belonging to a tier, based on criteria including physical facilities, current use, and demographics. Public hours and staffing depend on the tier. As in Option 1, the centers are managed in geographic groups with programming done on a coordinated basis. ARC partially reimburses the City for programming staff (subject to approval).

Option 3‐ Tiered Community Centers with 2‐3 Closed or Run by Others: Tiered community centers as in Option 2 but with 2 – 3 lower‐tier centers closed. Closed centers are made available for partnerships to operate all or part of a center as in Options 8 and 9.

Option 4‐ Close Community Centers: Stop City operation of between 7 and 10 community centers (no City staff, no public hours). Closed centers are made available for partnerships to operate all or part of a center as in Options 8 and 9. Community centers that remain open operate as they did in 2010.

Option 5‐ Increase PAR Fee: The City currently retains 3.25% of gross revenue from Associated Recreation Council (ARC) classes, sports fees, and childcare services (10% for Lifelong Recreation courses) to support community center operations. This percent retained is known as a Participation Fee or PAR fee. Change the PAR fee to 4% or 5%.

Option 6‐ Resident Discount: Pilot raising basic fees for programs and services about 10% but offering Seattle residents a 10% discount. Pilot could be at Amy Yee Tennis Center or at all swimming pools.

Option 7‐ Volunteers: Expand use of volunteers in order to forge stronger connections with the community, free professional staff for duties requiring their expertise, make community centers more welcoming to all users, and make programming and rentals during dark hours more affordable.

Option 8‐ Reprogramming of Underused Spaces: Times when a community center is not open to the public or when it is underused are called dark hours. This option would recruit outside organizations (partners) to provide programs or services using community center facilities during dark hours. Partners could include other governmental organizations and private or community‐based organizations. The goal is to maximize the use of community centers and provide a range of services to the public.

Option 9‐ Long‐Term Lease of Entire Community Center: An outside organization assumes total responsibility for operation of a community center that would otherwise be closed (see Options 3 and4). Parks retains ownership of the facility and responsibility for major maintenance costs.

Another meeting will be held in the South Seattle area on Thursday evening at Jefferson Community Center (3801 Beacon Ave S) at the same time.

The draft options for changing community center operations can be found here.

An on-line survey is also available for those who are unable to attend the meeting until July 1st.

For questions or more information, contact Susan Golub at susan.golub@seattle.gov.

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