JJAB Coordinator Urges Support for Teen Center
By Bonnie J. Gordon
The Los Alamos County Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 to discuss eight projects approved in May 2012.
The Council’s adopted budget guidance is to defer some projects up to four years to assist with projected budget shortfalls. One of the projects is the Los Alamos Teen Center Facility.
For years, community groups and surveys have identified a need for social and recreational services for teens in Los Alamos.
Los Alamos is geographically isolated with few areas for teens to hang out. In December 2010, a CIP Phase 1 study for a Teen Center Facility was approved by the County Council.
In December 2012, the Council approved $4 million to be funded in FY13 to hire an architect and contractor to design and construct a Teen Center.
The Los Alamos Family YMCA has managed a Teen Center housed at Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church for the last two years. This site was always viewed as a temporary location, said Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) Coordinator Ellen Ben-Naim.
“Average attendance at the Teen Center is currently at 82 teens per day," Ben-Naim said. "The current Center is only 1,800 square feet and has no room for special interest classes or quiet space to study. Many Teen Center activities must be housed in other locations, which affects participation. Some of these spaces are totally inadequate for the activities they house.'
After four years of planning and advocacy, supporters and teens are feeling very frustrated with the lack of progress on an adequate facility, she said.
“Kids and parents often don’t have the time and energy to show up at meetings, but this doesn’t mean they are unconcerned,” Ben-Naim said. “There is tremendous support for this project.”
A group of teens is preparing a video supporting the Teen Center project, she said.
“The current Teen Center is very professionally run by the YMCA. These are great people doing a great job, but their hands are tied by inadequate facilities,” Ben-Naim said.
Citizens may submit written comments to the Council in advance of the Feb. 19 meeting stating why they believe a particular project should proceed this year.
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The format for the Feb. 19 meeting:
- Staff presentations first;
- Councilor questions second; and
- public comment third.
A vote to adopt a revised list of projects is expected at the meeting.
“Keeping kids out of trouble and connected and engaged is a huge resource for the town,” Ben-Naim said. “The Teen Center should be for all of the kids in town, but now it can’t be because of space.”