By Shireen Mohyi
Entirely East Lansing
The East Lansing City Council decided Jan. 20 that the city will be closing the Bailey Community Center this September. The decision was made after months of hard discussion. The board concluded that the costs to maintain the building are greater than its benefit.
“I believe the issue of the continuation of childcare at Bailey is only part of the picture,” said Council Member Kathleen Boyle at the meeting. “Another very important part of the picture is what is going to happen to the Bailey Community Center, whether or not the child care program continues there.”
The early-age child care program has been the community center’s primary use in recent years. It was discovered during the time of the decision that only 13 of the 40 children enrolled in the program were from East Lansing.
The current budget for the community center is estimated at $150,000 for the child care program alone. With the high number of children enrolled in the program, taxpayers are paying $3,750 per child each year.
Boyle said she believes the community center is an important part of the Bailey neighborhood and East Lansing as a whole. Due to recent financial issues, closing the building is the only option to maintain other programs and services.
“It’s come to a point where the city needs to put some good planning thought into how to best to manage and use this asset,” said Boyle. “I’ve proposed a collaborative process called Strategic Doing.”
Strategic Doing is an company within The Purdue Center for Regional Development that specializes in educating people on expediting creative processes to reach their goals. Strategic Doing will help make decisions regarding the use of the building, the support of the building and how it’s going to fit in the City of East Lansing, according to the transcript of the Jan. 20 East Lansing City Council Meeting.
The Council recently had an analysis done to see if closing the center was worthwhile. The analysis discovered that it would take close to $500,000 worth of improvements for the building itself to continue running its normal operations. The City has already put $26,800 goward repairs but would still need $209,600 to keep the community center running past June 30, 2015.
Though the community center has been a valued part of East Lansing since it was built in the early 1900s, its costs will be too great a burden on the city’s finances if it remains open. While the Council views closing the building as a step in the right direction, some community members oppose demolition.
“I don’t know whether the Bailey building is architecturally significant, but I do believe that it is historically important and worth preserving,” said East Lansing resident Carrie Sampson. “Some of the ideas here already seem like good ones such as creating a nonprofit hub for the arts. I also really like the idea of a coffee shop, yoga studio, and/or stores that would cater to the residents of Bailey neighborhood because I would most definitely frequent these businesses.”
The city has no intention to rebuild any type of establishment after the demolition of the community center. The Bailey park will remain open to East Lansing residences.