Rumor mill active as city keeps lid on Westside RFP
Several inaccurate rumors have surfaced regarding the proposal by a limited liability corporation (LLC) of the Woodmen Valley Chapel to lease the Westside
It's uncertain how some of the rumors got started, although possibilities could include: a few people's comfort level with the way the city runs the center now, fear of a religious group taking over, and a simple lack of information, because the city has kept the LLC's proposal secret during negotiations - and made the LLC do likewise - thus leaving the door open to speculation.
In any case, here are the main rumors, followed by the actual situation, as researched by the Westside Pioneer:
Rumor - The Westside Community Center LLC plans to run the center as a church.
Reality - “That is absolutely not the case,” said Dick Siever of Woodmen Valley, who will be the LLC director. “Why would we have five collaborators for folks in need [see the list in the story starting on Page 1] if we were going to turn it into a church?” As an LLC, it will have some separation from Woodmen Chapel, including people who are not on the church's board of elders, according to City Parks Director Paul Butcher. Also, the group has been donating supplies and volunteers to the Express Inn's homeless outreach effort over the past two years, during which time there have been no reports of people being prosyletized.
Rumor - The Westside Community Center LLC plans to pave over the volunteer community garden that's getting started.
Reality - The LLC representatives are pleased that there will be a garden, and even if they weren't, they would have no power over it because the city, which owns the property, has a separate contract with the private garden sponsor.
Rumor - The LLC plans to shut down the preschool at the center and/or only allow wealthy people to use it.
Reality - The LLC plans to continue the preschool, looking for ways to make it more accessible to low-income families.
Rumor - The LLC plans to eliminate the existing programs at the center.
Reality -The formal request for proposals (RFP) that the city published - and to which Woodmen Valley responded in writing - urged any group taking over the center to continue existing programs. The LLC proposes to continue the most popular ones, and then survey Westsiders about other programs they would like during a series of neighborhood get-togethers this summer. At issue is the financial reality that the LLC needs to balance its budget, although much of its funding will come from gifts, grants and church support.
Rumor - The volunteer Rock Ledge Ranch Living History Association (LHA) will be evicted from its rent-free room at the center, with no place for its office or its period clothing collection after March 31. The LHA was actually told this at a staff meeting including several city officials (but no Woodmen Chapel representative) March 23, according to LHA President Ron Wright.
Reality - Siever said he had initially set aside space only for LHA clothing storage because he didn't know the group also has an office and holds meetings now in its current room. The room is also in a prime-rental part of the center facility. However, after talking with Wright March 24, Siever said he believes the situation can be resolved, if both sides are willing to be flexible. Wright later told the Westside Pioneer, “I think it's going to work out.”
Rumor - District 11 is pulling out the phones and other electronic equipment it owns inside the Westside Center.
Reality - This one actually has basis in fact, because a city/D-11 agreement authorizes D-11 to remove such items as of March 31. However, Butcher said that discussions with D-11 are ongoing, and if necessary the city still has $121,000, earmarked for building improvements, from the transaction last May in which D- 11 gave the city what was formerly the Buena Vista school. Part of that money could be used to fund a phone system that would belong to the city but which the LLC could use, Butcher said.
Rumor - There will be no dance studio for the existing dance classes.
Reality - The LLC plans call for a dance studio, Butcher said.
Westside Pioneer article