Fresno Officials Work to Save Recreation Centers

FRESNO, Calif. City officials and community members met to talk about their options. And they admit, the city is running out of money, fast.

One of the few options they have to keep 10 rec centers open is to turn them over to outside sources.

Every day, Lafayette Park in Central Fresno is bustling with children. The rec center there offers them free entertainment like games and art.

Something long-time volunteer Courtney Davis says is crucial. "This is a safe haven for these kids. They come here to relax. They come here to play," said Davis.

But running Lafayette's rec center and ones throughout the city isn't cheap. The city spends about $570,000 a year to operate ten of them. And with a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, city officials are now looking for new ways to keep those 10 rec centers up and running.

"We don't want to limit programming to the youth of Fresno so we're asking our community members to join in partnership with the city to keep these sites open so we can continue to give our children a high level of service and programming."

Fresno's Parks and Recreation Director Randall Cooper says they're asking non-profit organizations like the girl scouts to take over the centers, at no cost to the city.

On Friday, the parks department and community leaders had to put their heads together to come up with a solution.

Edie Jessup, a Program Development Specialist at Fresno State participated in the debate. She's concerned about what might happen if the city follows through with their proposal.

"I think that this is privatization of public property and how that property is used. In fact I can see some costs coming out of it that are unanticipated perhaps," said Jessup.

A cost some fear will impact kids, more than the city's budget.

Davis said, "Non-profit organization would not care about the same thing as the park and recs would."

The city claims that by September, they will not have enough money to run those 10 rec centers.

If the proposal goes through, the city will continue to maintain the green space around the centers, as well as pay for utilities.

The next meeting to discuss this issue will be at the end of this month.

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