Two weeks after the Seattle City Council finalized a budget for next year – which among other things changes Alki Community Center into a “limited-use” facility – the details of what that means for people who use the center are finally worked out, while those involved acknowledge it’s a work in progress.
We sat in last night on the meeting of the all-volunteer Alki Community Center Advisory Council, whose members will be more responsible than ever for what happens at Alki CC – most of its programs are funded through the council, including preschool and child care. Among the toplines of what’s ahead: We know the new hours; we know that (as first reported here in October) the popular Alki Art Fair won’t happen next year unless someone else is found to present it; and we know that tonight will be the last time the West Seattle Art Walk includes an Alki Bathhouse stop.
Read on for details:
The meeting came the day after a council member, Darrell Glover, received a citywide Denny Award for outstanding volunteer work. He wasn’t there, though. Around a small table inside the center’s community room were committee leader Liesa Rose and members Mary Vigilante, Will Winter, and Robert Kelly. Staffers were there too – Maureen O’Neill, a Parks regional supervisor, who outlined the new plan at the meeting’s start, as well as Melinda Kmitta and Lori Van Norman (who is being laid off because of the budget cuts).
They had just received e-mail that morning explaining the plan for center operation. So that was the first item of discussion.
Parks staffing at limited-use sites like Alki will be provided by employees who rotate. One Parks staffer will manage all the limited-use sites.
The drop-in hours with Parks staffers will be:
Mondays through Thursdays 9 am-noon, 5 pm-7:30 pm
Fridays, 9 am-noon, 4-9 pm
No Saturdays at this point, though advisory council members had been advocating for them.
Rose was kind enough to write out this summary as well as the new hours for us at meeting’s end: “Preschool and school-age care will continue to operate at their normal hours at the Community Center – they are run through ARC.”
This will be tested during the winter session – as O’Neill noted, the City Council plans to review by June “how these limited-use sites are going and how other community centers are operating. We may find this works perfectly well and meets the needs of the community; we may find the hours and days need to be adjusted; we may find it doesn’t work at all.”
Since Alki Bathhouse has been staffed by the Community Center team, it will be affected. Some of the art programs will continue. But it won’t be able to participate in special events such as the West Seattle Art Walk (that means tonight’s Art Walk event at the Bathhouse is its last TFN). It WILL still be available for rentals.
No Music on the Beach concerts next summer, no Alki Art Fair – unless a partner can be found to take it over and run it; organizing the event took months of work by Alki CC staffer Mary Pat Byington, it was noted. Kmitta said she has met once with Youngstown Cultural Arts Center to see if they would be interested, and has another meeting scheduled.
A topic that came up repeatedly: Since the council has $244,000 in the bank, couldn’t it just spend some of its money – which, again, is separate from Parks funds, as the council is affiliated with the Associated Recreation Council that partners with Parks to run programs at centers – to restore more of the hours? (The mayor’s original budget proposal would have cut ACC to 15 hours a week, but the City Council moved money to bring that to 30.) No, was the answer – the city wants the “limited-use centers” to operate in similar ways, rather than each one going off in its own direction based on what resources it has or doesn’t have. Too bad, said one member toward meeting’s end – their bank-account balance “would go a long way toward keeping this building open.”
The meeting also covered topics including food bids for a January 3rd dinner which will include tributes to those who, as of that date, won’t be working with them any more. And they’re still moving ahead with some long-pursued projects, including improvements to the preschool playground and the center lobby.
P.S. The advisory council needs help too – it’s had some vacancies for a while, we’re told, and especially now, if they’re going to be left helping to keep things going, many hands mean lighter work. And they’re brainstorming how to get the word out about all these changes.
P.P.S. Another Parks facility in West Seattle that’ll be affected dramatically by the budget cuts – Camp Long. Their programs will be available only to school groups – no more owl walks, low-tide strolls, etc. – but like Alki CC, the lodge will still be available for rentals.