Citizens group explores youth center options

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By Kellie Parkin

“We took the challenge – there is a need for a youth program,” said Bill Delaino, leader of a citizens group that has been exploring options and possible locations for a community youth center. He presented an update of the group’s findings to the City of Cedar Key Commission last Tuesday night.

“We’ve been looking wherever possible to incorporate programs for adults and seniors as well,” he said.

Commissioners agreed that there was great need for a youth facility and that making the space available to other population subgroups would also be beneficial.

“The more people we can accommodate in a center – the better,” said Commissioner Gene Hodges.

Delaino said that the group explored many locations before deciding that the best option is to add onto the existing Cedar Key Community Center.

“We looked at the school, but didn’t think that would work. Facility-wise, there’s a better option,” he said. “We also looked at one of the (public housing) duplexes, and the Methodist church – but that’s unfinished.”

“With the Community Center, you have a building that is underused… but if you use it for a dedicated youth program, it would take away from what it’s intended for.”

Using the existing facility for a youth program would mean that it couldn’t be permanently set up for the youth, Delaino explained. The Community Center needs to remain a Community Center, he said.

Delaino proposed adding 5,000-6,000 square feet to the front of the building facing 6th Street. He said that the group is also exploring other functions that the building addition could serve.

One idea that was floated included making it survivable in a major hurricane. This would make it an ideal rendezvous location for post-storm recovery, Delaino said.

There are many funding options for the addition as well as program administration, Delaino said.

“Some of the funding sources we’re looking at include civic and church groups, Levy County, School Board, fundraising, grants, and foundations – such as the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA,” he said.

They also plan to look to the Community Redevelopment Agency. CRA bond funds may be used for renovations or construction of the facility, said CRA Director Greg Lang. Staffing would need come from the regular funds, he said.

The commission gave Delaino the green light to proceed, returning the citizens group to the drawing board to generate a proposal showing specific plans and outlines.

“We’ve been designing a lot of things that we would need for a dedicated youth facility,” Delaino said. “And our goal would be to a have a full after school program for the next academic year.”