Center Runs Risk of Becoming Financial Boondoggle

The Citizen

SAN LEANDROAs the city braces for more disheartening cuts to services, it becomes likely the newly-constructed Senior Community Center on Bancroft Avenue is quickly turning into an economic boondoggle rather than a meeting place for San Leandro seniors.

City Manager Stephen Hollister said Monday night the opening of the center is yet to be determined and could be as early as September if the city council decides to allocate funding.

The city’s finance committee meets today to begin looking at further cuts to reconcile its $7.3 million budget deficit. “There will be many painful and probably controversial reductions in services that we will be facing,” said Hollister.

The cost of running the center will run up to $270,000 per year, according to Hollister. With the state of the city’s budget, it may opt to mothball the facility to save money. By postponing the center’s opening, the city would still spend $127,000 for upkeep of the facility, but a savings nonethess when further cuts are likely to be made to city services. Hollister also said it was “questionable” whether money could be saved by splitting existing personnel at the crosstown Marina Community Center to organize activities at the new center.

Despite the uncertainty of the center’s opening, the council unanimously approve a $300,000 expenditure to furnish the facility, which Hollister said was $200,000 less than expected. The center is also designed to become an emergency response center or secondary city hall in the event the seat of city government is inoperable.

Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak suggested the city pursue opening the facility for rentals to begin recouping costs even if the seniors portion of the center is not up and running. “I would support doing what we can to open the Senior Community Center to start receiving those rental dollars,” said Starosciak. There was no further discussion of the idea as Santos changed the subject to his proposal to AC Transit regarding another possible boondoggle, the Bus Rapid Transit plan to run along E. 14th Street.

Although funding for the center stipulated its use primarily for seniors, the entire community can use the facility weekdays after 4 p.m. and on the weekends. In an odd quibble with Starosciak, Santos said the original concept in its early planning stages called for the center to be used excusively by seniors. The exchange began when Starosciak asked for clarfiication on the correct name of the center, which is unofficially the Senior Community Center. After saying she preferred the current name over the more generic Senior Center, Santos said “I don’t know how our senior population will react,” and recalled in 2002, seniors were “not willing to share the center.”

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