Parks and After-School Programs Face the Chopping Block

November 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The city of Fresno is one week away from finalizing a budget. It includes slashing dozens of jobs, and mandatory furlough days. The city's $28-million dollar budget shortfall will leave no department untouched.15 year old Chris Martinez spends most days at Melody Park in East Central Fresno. Martinez told Action News, "I come here every day after school."

He says he enjoys working on projects here ... we asked Chris what he would he do if the facility were to close. He said, "Seriously I don't know. I don't know."

The city of Fresno is proposing to close facilities at Melody, Sunset, El Dorado, and Fink-White parks --as well as cutting after-school youth programs at 11 sites throughout the city.

City officials say those cuts would affect more than two thousand kids who utilize those programs and many residents are worried it will lead to a rise in crime.

Gwin Williams said, "Please don't shut down our playground because if they do where these kids gone go? We'll have problems here in the hood."

Action News talked with representatives from Councilmember Cynthia Sterling's office-- who say they trying to find alternatives to closing Fink-White and Sunset Parks in her district.

Mike Lukens with the city tells Action News council members can present their own solutions, but the bottom line remains the same ... the city needs to slash its budget.

Randy Cooper said, "We want to make sure we continue to provide quality service to our community."

Cooper with Parks and Recreation says his department is working on creative ways to offer quality services with a smaller staff.

Cooper said, "We're dealing with AARP and having them operate our computer centers ... they are actually paid by AARP."

He says the silver lining is all of the green space surrounding parks and recreation centers slated for closure like playgrounds and skate parks will remain open to the public.

15 year old Bryan Helms said, "Kids like to skate it's something to do to stay out of trouble so I don't think they should close it."

A final vote on the city budget will be made on Monday during a special council meeting.


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