Re-Creating Salinas Services
Community groups rally to keep public facilities afloat.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Salinas is heading toward a new chapter in fiscal insolvency: turning over as many as three recreation centers, a brand-new pool, concert hall and convention grounds to outside groups. On Jan. 13 (past the Weekly’s deadline), the Recreation-Parks Commission was scheduled to discuss whether to invite proposals from groups willing to step in, if the city closes the facilities. Among the departments slated for slicing, Parks and Community Services would suffer the biggest cut: 55 percent of its budget.
Community leaders are hoping to spread out the cuts, which total more than $9 million, to other services.
“I’m for keeping up as much as we can with parks and rec,” says Orlando Castro, Recreation-Parks commissioner and executive director of Alisal Center for the Fine Arts. “It’s a big impact to the nonprofit organizations out there that are tying to work on [gang] prevention.”
The prospect of closing Firehouse, El Dorado Park and Central Park recreation centers is especially troubling after a year in which youth violence claimed a record 29 lives.
Recreation-Parks Superintendent Jim Pia says he expects partnering community organizations to operate the public centers if the city can’t.
Kalah Bumba, project coordinator for Salinas Senior Center, says the group is interested in running the Firehouse’s senior services but would look to team up with another organization to lead the youth activities. “We certainly don’t want a city that has no recreation – for God’s sake,” he says.
Castro says Alisal Center wants to grow beyond its half of the Breadbox Recreation Center, which is not on the chopping block.
Monterey Symphony is also looking to keep classical music in Sherwood Hall, which the symphony used 25 times last year for rehearsals and concerts, CEO Joe Truskot says: “We are very committed to the hall. It has one of the finest acoustics in the state.”
But the venue doesn’t pay for itself. Last year, Sherwood Hall and the Community Center cost the city about $530,000, says Ken Davis, recreation services administrative supervisor.
Ultimately, it will be up to the City Council to make the call. Mayor Dennis Donohue has proposed for the budget decision to be pushed back until March.