The Save the Westside Community Group hails the city's decision not to move forward with a request for proposals process for the Westside Community Center that deadlocked when the city couldn't reach agreement with one bidder.
"We are excited to finally reach a point that we can start having dialog with city officials," the group's spokesperson Richard Mee says in an email to the Indy. "We look forward to working with the mayor, council members and Parks and Recreation to create a vibrant community center that reflects the specific needs of our Westside community."
Councilor Richard Skorman also was happy to see the city now ready to focus on maintaining the center, at 1628 W Bijou St., for a community purpose.
In a July 2 release, the city said the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department was "unable to come to a mutual agreement during its most recent negotiation with the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region." The Y was one of two proposals received.
The center currently is managed by the Center for Strategic Ministry; that arrangement expires Jan. 1, 2022.
"The parks department is not planning to reopen the current request for proposal at this time," the release said.
The other top-ranked proposal came from Mountain Song Community School, but it wasn't able to proceed due to its agreement with Colorado Springs School District 11.
In a statement provided to the Indy in May, D-11's Devra Ashby said the charter school had asked the district to waive "a contractual exclusion that was part of the donation of the old Buena Vista school site to the city for the use as a westside community center," but the district "declined to waive that exclusion that was in the transfer of property contract."
The city said in the release a team of people representing Westside residents, City Council, the Parks Advisory Board and the parks department evaluated the proposals.
“We appreciate the effort put forth by the organizations who submitted proposals, but, naturally, we are disappointed that we weren’t able to come to a mutual agreement through this process,” Kim King, recreation and administration manager, said in the release. “The parks department is committed to continued operations that benefit the Westside community, and we anticipate further dialogue with the current operator regarding a path forward.”
The city's goal through the RFP was to find an operator that would bring financial stability to the center, provide activities of benefit to the Westside and invest in the center so the city wouldn't have to.
Mee said the Westside group cheers the end of the RFP process, because it didn't specify that the facility remain a community center.
"Over the several months of challenging this cities process our westside community has coalesced and strengthened in working together," he says. "We look forward to having active participation in the building and operations of our westside community center."
Mee also took issue with the city's demand the center become financially viable. "We feel a community center is a public service and public services should not be expected to be financially viable," he says. "Why should the Westside Community Center have this expectation when no other community center has these same expectations?"
Skorman says one big development that's changed things is the adoption of the American Rescue Plan Act by Democrats in Congress. The Act pumped $1.9 trillion in investment in cities, counties and states to counter impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city received $76 million and has designated $1.8 million for capital investment in community centers.
The Westside center, Skorman says, will receive several hundred thousand dollars for a new roof and HVAC system, thus eliminating the need for an operator to provide capital improvement money.
"Then it will be a lot easier to find somebody to help us manage it," Skorman says by phone. "We are definitely making sure it has a community purpose. Nobody is going to be asked to leave. We got the message loud and clear from the westside neighbors they want this to remain a community asset, and that's what we're going to do.
"The problem before was we wanted to partner with someone who could invest in it, but now the city is willing to take some of that on," he adds. "That makes it a lot easier to imagine how to move forward."