San Marco Library, Balis Community Center Saved

San Marco Library, Balis Community Center Saved

As of Thursday, Aug. 29, City Council voted to restore the San Marco Library and Balis Community Center to their department budgets.

In an email sent out from the San Marco Preservation Society, Reese Riggle, president, said, “Heartfelt thanks to all of you who took time and thought to compose letters to city council. Your effort made the difference.”

Andrew Dickson, SMPS Parks Chairman, said, “I’m hugely relieved that the San Marco Library will stay open, for the sake of those who work and study there, and hope that this near miss will spur the community to use it even more. My family has been visiting it on a weekly basis during the summer, and now that school’s back in session, the kids from Landon Middle can count on it daily for a safe and constructive place to go.”

“Thanks to Andrew, Lori and a handful of others who have tirelessly worked on this issue – the library AND Balis Community Center budgets have been restored! Thank you so much everyone for working on this, rallying your neighbors, writing our council members, and making this a priority,” Riggle wrote.

He also gave special thanks to Estelle Vickery for hard data, Anna Jacobson for superb networking, Andrew Dickson for pounding the pavement, all the San Marco merchants displaying and distributing flyers, and District 5 Councilmember Lori Boyer for her tireless advocacy for the San Marco community.

According to Dickson, Balis Community Center was in danger of being cut for underuse, because the way the city staffed and scheduled it made it nearly inaccessible to the neighborhood, outside of after-school programs and summer camps.  “That will change,” he commented. “There’s a big opportunity for San Marco to fill the morning and evening hours with fee-based programs run by artists and entrepreneurs. Once word gets out that it’s available, I hope San Marco will find Balis a great place to gather.”

The community center was targeted for elimination in the Finance Committee meeting. The center was built in 2003 with $1 million of private money in a Public/Private Partnership.

Four out of six library branches, including the Willowbranch Library at Park and Cherry in Avondale, also were saved.  Two branch libraries — in Maxville and Brentwood — would still be closed under the 2014 spending plan the council’s Finance Committee approved. The committee also voted to restore Sunday hours at regional libraries and in the Main Library downtown.

“I was amazed by the outpouring of generosity and eloquence from San Marco in a few short weeks.  We’re so lucky to have such engaged and passionate neighbors!” concluded Dickson.

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