Day will seek broad funding sources for youth programs

A Youth Development Advisory Board will be formed to determine the scope of the community center Mayor Jake Day proposed in his FY17 budget.

Day included $300,000, in the capital improvements portion of the budget but there is no funding for operations, so he’s hoping philanthropists help pay for a facility that welcomes everybody in the community, of all ages, while focusing on the educational, moral and physical growth of youth.

“Cost can’t be a barrier. In my mind, that means free. There has to be an accessibility for kids who can’t afford to have a private tutor in the home and can’t afford to go to an organization that isn’t affordable,” the mayor said.

“Incredible expensive ways are not the solution. It is the opposite of addressing the problem. We want everybody to be able to use it. That’s the only way to look at it,” he said.

It’s too soon to determine the location or opening date, but Day estimated it will probably take a year or more to plan and open a center.

“I’m not interested in a brand new building. It’s more about neighborhoods right now, the core of the city — Church Street, the west side, Dover Avenue, Church Street, Doverdale –need the most attention. It’s about getting it right and doing it fast so it serves the purpose and lends dignity to people’s lives,” the mayor said.

“If you look at the city’s challenges, a city with a declining crime rate year after year, a declining adult crime rate and adult arrests and relatively growing juvenile problem, we’ve got to do something for our kids,” the mayor said.

He’d like to see role models for boys who are “upstanding men” and mentors for girls who model strong self-esteem.

“All those are really good lessons. We could be a government that never talked about those things, but if we ignore this, and we ignore the next generation and what they need to be positive, we would be short changing our youth,” he said.

Council President Jack Heath agreed there’s a need for a community center and wholeheartedly supports it.

“It’s not just going to be a community center where you throw out a basketball and the kids play. We want to have an educational part of that. We want to have some guidance, some evaluation of what the needs are for particular individuals,” Heath said.

Day said every council member, and candidates for City Council during the election last year, talked about serving youth and having a suitable center, a place “where kids have a safe space for recreation and to develop academically and morally.”

He envisions mentors and guides, involvement of the public library, maybe basketball paired with homework.

Heath agreed.

“There’s a great need that’s beyond just recreation. If we don’t take care of the kids, then we are going to end up paying to incarcerate the individuals we have to incarcerate,” Heath said.

“Just think of amount of money we could spend on youth if we didn’t have to worry about that,” he said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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