Parks board hears complaints on center’s staffing

Advocates for youth and neighborhood leaders asked the Kansas City park board Tuesday to hire more staff and deal with “appalling” conditions at the Brush Creek Community Center.

Speakers complained that hours have been cut at the center, 3801 Emanuel Cleaver II Blvd., and that maintenance and programs there are inferior to those at other community centers. They urged the park board to extend evening hours, especially to provide area youth with a safe place to go.

“We’re the last to get anything,” said Pat Clark, arguing that the facility needs significant improvements, including a better fitness program, gymnasium and equipment.

Newly elected state Rep. Brandon Ellington reported seeing leaky pipes, dirty locker rooms and inadequate arts and crafts programs. He also said the community stands ready to provide volunteers to enhance the facility’s programs and hours of operation.

Some people questioned how the park department could afford to pay $1.5 million recently for new park land when it is having trouble funding its community centers.

Park director Mark McHenry said, however, that the $1.5 million came from a different pot of money than the community center fund.

Earlier this year, the Brush Creek center was designated to be used on weekends to house curfew violators after crowds of unruly youths gathered on the Plaza. Several other community centers stayed open late to provide alternate activities.

Park board members pledged to search for solutions, and a meeting is planned Friday at the center for further discussion.

Mark Bowland, manager of community services, said the staff shortage is temporary and is being addressed, and that should expand the center’s hours. He said if voters approve an extension or increase in the city’s motor vehicle fee next year, those funds could help all the city’s community centers.