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Center dodges budget cutback

Mayor Rick Baker says saving $48,000 isn't worth the community's loss of recreational programs at the Roberts Adult Center.

By BRYAN GILMER and CHAUNDRA PERKINS
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002


ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayor Rick Baker has decided not to recommend cutting the budget for the Roberts Adult Center after all.

"I don't think that plan has materialized," Baker said Friday. "I don't think the savings justify the elimination of the programs."

The center at 1330 50th Ave. N offers recreational programs for adults, such as pottery, watercolor painting, tai chi, tennis, yoga, bridge, pinochle and Scrabble. The city had planned to tear down the building the center uses for ceramics but not replace the space with a new center until 2006.

Baker had hoped that programs could be relocated to area schools in the meantime. That would have reduced the center's staff and cut its utility costs, saving $48,000 in a tight budget year for the city.

Foundation problems at the annex building originally led Baker and his staff to conclude that it should be torn down. Because the building is used for ceramics work, participants call it the "clay house."

A city inspector looked over the building Friday, City Services Administrator Lee Metzger said, and determined that only one room was unusable.

"What we're going to do is block that off and use it for storage but not public usage," he said.

Ceramics instructor Pat Pignatello was thrilled by the mayor's decision.

"It's fantastic," she said. "I don't know what else to say. I'm really glad for all of the people that come to the center. I couldn't believe the outcry from all of the people. It really is a valuable place for them."

Metzger said the center's users have offered to meet with his staff to look for ways to save the city money at the center, albeit less than the original $48,000. Internal Services Administrator Andy Houston said he would have to identify other cuts in the city budget to make up the difference.

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