COSTA MESA : Council to Weigh Fate of Community Center

The City Council will decide next month whether to close a community center that houses a popular program for young children.

Parents pleaded with council members at a study session last week to keep open the Balearic Community Center, a former school rented by the city for $1 yearly. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which owns the building, is seeking to raise the rent to market rate--estimated by the district at $66,000 yearly.

Mayor Sandra L. Genis said she is concerned the city would be spending too much for the community center with the rent increase. Programs at Balearic attracted about 350 people this winter, according to community services manager Keith Van Holt.

Exercise and child-care programs are offered at the center, which the city has rented since 1977. City Manager Allan L. Roeder said the city is negotiating with the district over the lease, and the council is set to vote on the lease at the June 6 council meeting.

Two women who said their children attend day-care classes at the center urged the council last week to continue to rent the center at 1975 Balearic Drive.

"We are hopeful that the city and the school district can find some ground in the middle to keep the early childhood program and to keep it at Balearic," said Christine Ludlow, whose son, Joe, 4, goes to the center twice a week.

Ludlow said she and other mothers have gathered more than 170 signatures from people who want to keep the early childhood program at the center. About 30 people attended a recent council meeting to show support for the center.

Ludlow said her son spends eight hours a week at the center learning social skills, games, and arts and crafts. About 80 children are enrolled in the program, Van Holt said.

The council today will discuss the progress of lease negotiations in a closed session.

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