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City in awkward position as only one community center attracts a bidder



Rumors have a nasty habit of popping up where facts are absent.

And thus, the city finds itself in an awkward position with Westside Community Center, the only one of four centers to attract a bidder after being put on the block at the beginning of the year.

A.C.T.S. (A Call To Serve), a Woodmen Valley Chapel-based ministry dedicated to community service, returned a detailed proposal to take over Westside for at least three years, which it appears the city will approve. Meanwhile, City Council did an about-face Monday and agreed to dip into reserves and continue funding the remaining three community centers through the end of 2010, as well as the Cottonwood pool and some recreation programs.

Those decisions brought cheers from supporters but left some west siders feeling jilted, since the city has not made the A.C.T.S. proposal public, citing ongoing negotiations.

"On any of the hundreds of contracts the city executes every year, there's not a public meeting when we're in the negotiation phase," Parks and Recreation Director Paul Butcher says. In fact, much to its collective dismay, even City Council has not been privy to the contract. And it's Butcher, not Council, who will approve the deal.

Them's the rules.

"That is just bullshit," west side activist Dave Hughes says. "This is not a contract for snow removal, this is not just a mechanical contract, this is a community center with a lot of sensitivities around it."

Hughes has some company in that opinion. Another activist, Karen Fleming, takes it a step further and says she would have preferred Westside be given the same city funding that the other centers were granted — hopefully giving advocates enough time to come up with a solution that would keep Westside independent.

"Why is it three of the centers are given nine months, and we weren't given anything?" she asks.

Fleming says she's concerned that A.C.T.S. has an agenda that may conflict with Westside's current mission. Others, including Brian Kates, facility director of Westside and Meadows Park community centers, share her concerns.

One of the biggest rumors going around is that Woodmen plans to shut down current programs and turn Westside into little more than a church.

However, several people say that's not the case. Hughes says he's looked into the A.C.T.S. plan and is fully satisfied the center will continue its current mission (even if he's upset with the city's process) — and he'll give the $6,000 he and Old Colorado City Historical Society have raised for Westside to the new management.

Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors, says his board was so impressed with the A.C.T.S. plan that it gave unanimous approval to endorse it.

Jan Doran, a neighborhood advocate and Woodmen Valley Chapel member, sought to reassure Council on Tuesday that A.C.T.S. has noble intentions for Westside, and will continue current programming, do repairs and improvements to the structures, and add programs to help families in need.

A.C.T.S. plans to partner with Pikes Peak Community Action Agency, Peak Vista Community Health Centers, Silver Key Senior Services, Westside CARES and Greccio Housing to bring services to Westside.

"It's going to look different," Kates says of the plan. "[But] we're going to assist them however we can.

"It beats boarding up the center."

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