MANATEE -- The closed Rubonia Community Center could reopen as soon as next week after the Manatee County Commission Tuesday approved money for a pilot program there.
The board OK'd a contract calling for $35,000 to re-start programs at the center, at 1309 72nd St. E., north of Palmetto. The programs are slated for Feb. 4 - June 14.
The center will again be operated by a nonprofit organization, United Community Centers, Inc., in partnership with the county, said Cheri Coryea, county director of neighborhood services. It has been closed since Aug. 16 due to budget problems.
Among its offerings will be an after school "drop in" program for kids, said Coryea.
Special services related to health/nutrition, literacy, technology, recreation and leadership will be provided based on a monthly schedule, county documents said. Bilingual programming is in the works to accommodate the diverse neighborhood, which has developed a definite Latin accent, they said.
And a computer lab that drew criticism from two youngsters who appeared before the commission will be revamped, Coryea said.
Part of the difficulty of planning new programs at the center stems from recent demographic shifts in the area, a county report issued last fall concluded.
The average age of the residents in the area has shifted from a younger population to a larger group of those 60 years and older, it found.
So, programs aimed at children did not attract enough participants, it said.
"We're calling this a 'pilot program' to see if the residents really do want to use this facility," Coryea told the board.
County Commissioner John Chappie said the key is developing community participation.
"It's a good example of where we need to step in and give that helping hand," he said.
In other action Tuesday, the board honored H. Hamilton "Chip" Rice, who retired from his post as Manatee County attorney in 1997.
It also discussed a proposal to set up an "Idle Speed -No Wake Zone" adjacent to Fort Hamer Park in order to ensure that boaters and rowers get along smoothly on the Manatee River.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.