News

Buckley youth center gets council OK

By John Leggett-The Courier Herald

An assembly of Buckley citizens applauded wildly at last week's City Council meeting, moments after council members unanimously approved the building of a youth center next to the town's skate park.

Two factors worked in favor of getting the council's OK for the center.

First, Amy Molen, a member of the Families First Coalition, pledged her allegiance to the cause. She volunteered to donate 20 to 30 hours a week of design, inspection and administrative work that could save the city thousands of dollars.

“No service is beneath me in order to keep the ball rolling on the youth center project,” she said.

Next, Families First's Marcy Boulet stepped to the podium and shed light on the numerous benefits associated with building youth centers.

“We've done workshops and surveys with Buckley's youth, because for the last four or five years building this center has been our No. 1 priority,” she said. “ The centers also furnish a safe haven in which to congregate, instead of coming home from school to an empty house, because both parents are still at work.”

“It is always nice when members from the community come in and offer their support,” Buckley City Administrator David Schmidt said. “The Families First Coalition has orchestrated youth forums at the high school level and otherwise championed the youth center cause, since the project's inception.”

Shortly after Boulet's presentation, Buckley Councilwoman Christy Boyle-Barrett reported that Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney had come forth with an additional $2,500 in Pierce County funding for the youth center.

The additional $2,500, in tandem with the $150,000 Bunney secured for the project fund in December 2005, represents almost half of the necessary funding. When combined with the $200,000 in grant money awarded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development 2002, the city is well within the financial realm of being able to cover initial construction costs.

While three separate construction bids were submitted for the city council's perusal on July 26, it was the bid by Interwest Construction and Development of $391,000 that caught the attention of the council, even though it was still $20,000 greater than the engineer's twice-revised estimate, which was geared toward a modest-yet-sufficient approach to the facility.

Joe Kessell, president of ICD, indicated his company would be willing to help make the youth center a reality.

“Some of the local merchants, as well as Interwest, are amenable to possible donation of services or material to raise your building,” Kessell wrote in a letter to Schmidt.

“Interwest intends to be a major employer in this city and we want to be recognized as a positive player in civic deeds and contribute to projects in our future home, where many of our employees currently reside,” Kessell concluded.

After the council gave its unanimous approval to the project, Boulet pointed out it was the culmination of a decade-long effort.

“We are ecstatic about the approval of the center,” she said. “It is like a dream becoming reality. It validates the fact that the youth of this area have been heard and that people can still make a difference.”

Boulet expressed hope that the council's positive reinforcement will open the avenue for donations, volunteerism and getting the project done.

“It has been proven that building youth centers significantly reduces the amount of youth crime and drug usage,” she said, “because the centers give youths some place to gather and engage in healthy organized activities.”

John Leggett can be reached at jleggett@courierherald.com.

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