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Renovated Teen Center Gains Council Support

City Council voted 4-1 to amend the capital improvement plan to allocate leftover Measure WW funds toward a new or renovated resource center for teenagers. The entire plan, plus the two-year operating budget, will be adopted at the Council's June 28 meeti

Union City may be one step closer to a new or expanded teen resource center after a majority of Council members expressed their support for the project earlier this week.

At City Council's June 14 meeting, Council member Emily Duncan introduced a motion, seconded by Council member Lorrin Ellis, to amend the city's five-year capital improvement plan stipulating that money from be used to either build an entirely new facility or renovate the existing William May Teen Center at .

Locals said they want an upgraded teen center to help curb violence and give young people a place to hang out after school and during the summer in a safe environment. The new center should also provide access to to services such as health care, educational supports and cultural activities, residents said.

The Kennedy teen center is the project's focus because the Decoto Youth Center on 10th Street, where the city runs a popular , is housed in an old fire station and would not be practical to expand.

Measure WW is an approximate $3.5 million bond from the East Bay Regional Park District earmarked for Union City .

The funds became a topic of debate when the city green-lighted the planning of in January. It was later shot down when council members voted 3-2 against submitting an application to EBRPD for the Measure WW funding in March. Officials then cited budget concerns and the lack of community impact for voting against the facility.

As part of the city's five-year capital improvement plan, the Parks and Recreation Commission came up with a list of projects to fund using Measure WW money.

Included in the list are renovating restrooms at five parks, completing the Veterans Memorial at Veterans Memorial Park, resurfacing basketball courts and performing other maintenance duties the city had previously deferred due to a lack of capital improvement funds, officials said.

The projects are expected to cost up to $1.8 million, and Duncan's motion would put the remaining Measure WW funds toward a teen center.

Duncan said she wanted to amend the capital improvement plan now so that Council could vote on the most updated version at its June 28 meeting.

The Council was scheduled to adopt the city's operating budget and capital improvement plan that night, but City Manager Larry Cheeves advised the council to hold off pending ratification of the state's budget.

Cheeves said if state lawmakers have still not passed a budget by the Council's June 28 meeting, it will have to vote on its budget anyway since the new fiscal year begins July 1.

During the hearing Mayor Mark Green opposed introducing the motion ahead of the 28th, calling it "premature and out of line."

"Why don't you make it that night?" he asked Duncan.

"I want to make it tonight so it comes back in the amended budget that's brought back. Is that acceptable?" she replied.

"I don't think that's the right thing to do," Green shot back.

Green also spoke out against Park and Recreation's Measure WW funding recommendations, saying the city should put the money into a larger project instead of spreading it out over several maintenance tasks.

"Instead of a potpourri of urinal striping and sprinkler heads, you might actually find something of greater value," he said.

The resolution passed 4-1, with Green dissenting.

"Hopefully the money can be used in the most efficient way" to ensure as much funding as possible can be allocated for the teen center, Duncan said after the meeting, adding that she wanted to introduce the motion now for fear that if she waited, "we could miss our opportunity."

The council also unanimously voted Tuesday night to re-establish the Decoto Youth and Family Resource Center Ad Hoc Task Force.

The task force, first created in January 2010, will discuss the creation of a new teen center and in September will bring back its recommendations for which services and activities to prioritize.

It will also develop more long-term funding sources, such as a local facilities bond or grants, if it wishes to build a new center. Such a facility would probably be housed where the current teen center is at Kennedy Park.

The previous task force, which included former council members Richard Valle and Manny Fernandez, also recommended a Kennedy Park Master Plan to evaluate how a new or expanded teen center might impact the character of the area. Measure WW funding could not be used for such an endeavor, however.

Two council members will co-chair the task force, which will also include commissioners, community leaders and youth.

Green urged that whoever is on the task force should develop a vision for what it wants to do without working only within the framework of the $1.5-$2 million they can expect from Measure WW.

"Maybe you'll have enough foresight on your own to see this, that you'll actually come up with an open book, see what's out there, then come back to us," he said.

The City does not have to apply for the funds until next March.

Mary Schlarb, a longtime Decoto resident who was also on the original task force, spoke during public commenting period in favor of reestablishing the panel and creating a new teen center.

"Our youth need a safe place where they can go to express themselves creatively," Schlarb said."We need to move forward on providing activities of interest for [them]."

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