by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
MONROE, N.C. - Monroe city leaders are considering plans for a controversial teen rec center that could be built across the street from two existing recreational centers.
Tuesday, city council members discussed a letter sent to officials by Parks & Rec Advisory Board member Moya Saltzgaber which raised questions about the need for a new center and how it would be funded.
Saltzgaber said an assessment of needs from the assistant city manager's office showed the Winchester Avenue teen center could cost $3.4 million. Architectural plans have already been budgeted for the center at a cost of $200,000.
"I'd rather look at all solutions before we actually commit ourselves to a $3.5 million building," Saltzgaber told Channel 9.
City council members argued the center would be strictly for teenagers 13-18, unlike other city rec facilities, and that alternative activities are needed in the Winchester neighborhood, which city councilwoman Surluta Anthony said has a growing problem of crime, violence and teen pregnancy.
"We recognize that teenagers in Monroe don't really have a place to call their own. We have no idea what it's going to cost, we are not at that point," Anthony told Eyewitness News.
"We have citizens all the time that have opinions and they are entitled to their opinions, We welcome their opinions. But the opinion of one person, in my mind, is not enough to cut a project," Anthony said.
Saltzgaber questioned if the existing centers could be renovated and updated at a fraction of the cost, even using the $200,000 already budgeted for architectural plans.
"Buildings of themselves are not going to solve any problems. I'd like to look into why this neighborhood is this way, what is so unique about this neighborhood that makes these problems so bad," Saltzgaber said.
At Tuesday's council meeting, other council members expressed concern about the location of the proposed center.
According to meeting minutes, councilman Lynn Keziah noted last year, city employees did not receive merit raises and said the city was set to lose an estimated $3 million in revenue due to the state budget, which caused worry about funding the project.
Winchester residents admit drugs and gang activity are problems, and said a new place for teens to go would be a welcome change.
"This will be great for the kids, the kids really need a lot to do," resident Tangela Wallace told Channel 9.
The council will discuss more plans for the center at its meeting on Aug. 19.