Some Seattle community centers face cuts, others a boost
All 25 Seattle community centers would remain open, but many would have reduced staffing and hours in 2012 under a proposal announced Monday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
All 25 Seattle community centers would remain open, but many would have reduced staffing and hours in 2012 under a proposal announced Monday by Mayor Mike McGinn and City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.
The proposal organizes the city's community centers into five geographic areas.
Within each area, some high-use centers would operate with longer hours and offer the most programs, while other centers with less public use would see reduced hours and activities.
Programs wouldn't be duplicated within geographic areas so one center might specialize in fitness and another in crafts; one might open early and another offer late-night hours.
The mayor said organizing the centers into geographic areas would allow the city more flexibility in staffing and programming.
"We're trying to reduce operating costs while preserving direct services to users," McGinn said Monday at a news conference at the High Point Community Center in West Seattle.
The proposal would save $1.2 million from the 2012 city budget.
About 14 jobs would be eliminated, and the hours of 75 staffers would be reduced.
The city is facing a projected $25 million deficit for 2012.
McGinn will issue his full city budget later this month.
The parks department budget was slashed by $11 million in 2011 as the city closed a $67 million budget deficit.
Five community centers — Alki, Ballard, Green Lake, Laurelhurst and Queen Anne — went to limited service to save money.
The city also launched an outreach effort to find out how many people used each center and for what activities.
The parks department evaluated the condition of community-center buildings and the costs to maintain them, the income from paid uses and rentals and the number of people receiving scholarships.
Under the proposal announced Monday, seven community centers would operate up to 70 hours a week and offer the most activities.
Those are: Bitter Lake, Garfield, High Point, Jefferson, Loyal Heights, Meadowbrook and Rainier.
The plan would reduce operating hours for nine community centers to 30 to 45 hours a week.
Those are: Delridge, Green Lake, Hiawatha, Montlake, Northgate, Queen Anne, Ravenna-Eckstein, South Park and Yesler.
And hours would be cut to just 15 to 25 a week at Alki, Ballard, International District, Laurelhurst, Magnolia, Magnuson, Miller and Van Asselt.
The Rainier Beach Community Center is scheduled to reopen in 2013.
Some residents accepted the city's verdict that their centers aren't now high-use facilities.
"We want this to be a rallying cry to the community," said Jim Cunningham, a member of the Queen Anne Community Council who worked with the parks staff to draft the geographic plan.
He said a community center is vital to a thriving neighborhood, but residents have to support the center and build involvement and programming.
Kathleen Cromp, who also worked on the Parks' Community Center Advisory Team, questioned how realistic it will be for community members to access programs at a center that is miles from their home if their own center no longer offers them.
"These are big geographic areas with a lot of demographic diversity," she said.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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