Boys and Girls Club gains steam
With the City Council on board and fundraising underway in the business community, momentum is growing behind a new Boys and Girls Club location in Burnsville.
Questions remain about where to put the club and how to fill a projected $100,000 annual funding gap.
But planning continues to replace The GARAGE, Burnsville’s 13-year-old teen center, with the first suburban outlet of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.
“The GARAGE is going to transition,” Council Member Dan Gustafson said at a council work session May 15. “It just needs to be stated.”
Now the question is whether to renovate and expand the current GARAGE site or wait and see if a closed school building becomes available.
Talk of closing a school in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 has accelerated since the School Board this month quashed a money-saving proposal to shorten the school calendar.
Permanent savings from closing a school would go a small way toward the district’s goal of cutting spending by $15 million over three years.
The district is a partner in the Boys and Girls Club project. The district’s Burnsville Area Learning Center plans to provide programs and two full-time teachers at the club.
Any decision on a building closing would likely be made well before the start of the 2013-14 school year.
“It just remains to be seen how it all plays out,” Council Member Bill Coughlin said.
Backers say a Boys and Girls Club could offer programs to up to 150 children a day, reaching more children and a wider age range with more programs than The GARAGE, which has struggled with funding and fluctuating attendance.
A major part of the Boys and Girls Club proposal is a Kids Feeding Kids program, with a kitchen and dining area that could accommodate 180 children per day. Nearly half of District 191 students qualify for free or subsidized school meals.
The Boys and Girls Club proposal has met resistance from youthful GARAGE organizers and loyalists, whom Boys and Girls Club planners vowed to include in their planning process.
The city spends $125,000 a year on operations at the GARAGE, which is also funded by various grants. There’s a $50,000 hole in next year’s GARAGE budget, Deputy City Manager Tom Hansen said. Longtime manager Eric Billiet departed earlier this year, and the GARAGE has an interim manager and inexperienced staffers, Hansen said, adding that “they’ll basically be scaling back the operation.”
Amid budget cuts in 2009, the council shelved a $1 million plan to renovate and expand the GARAGE space in the city maintenance building in Civic Center Park.
It would cost an estimated $950,000 to renovate the GARAGE space and an extra 8,450 square feet for the Boys and Girls Club. Additions would include the dining area and a sport court.
Under current plans, the Boys and Girls Club would pay $328,000 a year to support operations, with five full-time staffers and some part-timers. The city would continue to contribute $125,000 a year and the building (unless a closed school is chosen).
Also, Brad and Melanie Rixmann have committed $25,000 a year for 10 years for the dining program. (They have also committed $10,000 to the capital campaign for building improvements.)
That still leaves questions about how to fund the renovation and cover a $100,000 annual funding gap in operations.
Fundraising is underway. Council members Gustafson and Dan Kealey have been pitching the Boys and Girls Club in the business community.
“I am confident beyond any doubt whatsoever that $100,000 gap will be filled, and will be filled by people in he Burnsville community,” Kealey said.