Lemon Grove leaders are expected to soon open the town’s recreation center to the public on Saturdays, answering longstanding calls to expand access.
The city council unanimously approved the move on Tuesday, although there was no formal vote.
While staff members have yet to work out the details, the pilot program could begin as early as July 30.
“Sometimes we need to hear the loud voices,” councilor Jennifer Mendoza told residents who repeatedly pushed for change. “I appreciate you keeping us on our toes, and I’ll be the first person to be out there and celebrate.
The announcement was a beacon of hope in an otherwise tense meeting which saw the mayor unsuccessfully attempt to eject a colleague who kept interrupting him.
Lemon Grove closed its recreation department to save money in 2011 after the Great Recession. In the years that followed, worries about whether the city could stay afloat gave way to a balanced budget of $18 million with a modest surplus.
Even with the department gone, the gymnasium continued to open to schools and groups willing to rent the space, and it recently hosted day camps and a basketball tournament in memory of a local boy. hit and killed by a car.
But the lack of open doors for residents to come and go, without specific programs, has been a sore point in the community.
The establishment should open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for six months.
Each day would cost $472, according to city records. This would pay for two part-time employees and utilities.
Half a year would require $11,328. The center would not be open on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, which falls on Saturday, or the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Everyone will be able to use the space for free, although booking a room in advance may cost a small fee. The city is still in the process of creating a reservation system.
Staff members will monitor how many people attend, when they arrive and what they do in order to report early next year. Officials warned that an earlier partnership with the county for a program called SD Nights did not attract many people.
Four members of the public spoke in favor of the plan, although some also called on the city to hold specific events.
City manager Lydia Romero said staff don’t yet have the training or the time to run games and supervise volunteers. She added that not sponsoring activities reduces the risk of lawsuits.
If the council wants to continue the program after January, the question remains open where the money will come from. Two years ago, voters rejected a proposal to potentially raise millions through new taxes.
“At some point this town will have to come back for a sales tax,” councilman Jerry Jones said Tuesday.