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North Las Vegas City Council discusses possible closure of recreational centers

Dozens of people pleaded with the North Las Vegas City Council at its July 20 meeting not to close the community’s recreational centers to make up for the city’s budget shortfalls.

Neighborhood Recreation Center, 1638 N. Bruce St., and Silver Mesa Recreation Center, 4025 Allen Lane, could be closed up to one year after city staff members recommended a plan that included laying off dozens of employees to help fill a $6.1 million gap in the fiscal 2012 budget.

The young and the gray-haired spent more than two hours discussing what would happen if the centers closed their doors — painting a bleak picture of unhappy, unhealthy seniors who might go hungry and teenagers who might resort to criminal activity when their time isn’t filled by arts, sports and music classes.

The City Council could barely see one little girl who was swallowed up by the podium. Al Noyola, the city’s acting finance director, and resident Gary Bouchard positioned the microphones in her direction so she could be heard.

“Don’t close the centers, ’cause people like them,” she said.

Some people said the community centers provide the only outlet for helping children get out of rough neighborhoods.

“You’ll find no council members who want to cut out these kinds of programs,” Mayor Shari Buck told the audience.

Others even offered to pay higher taxes — requesting that would be a last-resort option — if it meant keeping the centers open. Some suggested they would like council members to consider consolidating activities into one center .

The council chambers were packed at City Hall, 2200 Civic Center Drive, and city officials provided an overflow section to accommodate attendees, who held signs that read “Save Our Seniors .” That area was full, too. North Las Vegas firefighters were on hand to provide a head count to make sure the meeting was within fire code.

Buck held up a stack of blue cards — about 40 in all — calling out names for those who wanted to address the council. For most, it was the first time attending a council meeting, much less speaking out in public.

“When you get old, you appreciate a place to go,” resident Fred Young said.

By the end of the night, the City Council decided to postpone its decision until the Aug. 3 meeting, hoping to come to a contract agreement with the police union to fill the budget gap.

“We don’t have a union that represents us,” resident Robert Russell said. “So, therefore, we can only stand alone as a group and let you know how we feel.”

It also was Councilman Wade Wagner’s first meeting representing Ward 4 on the council.

During a special 4:30 p.m. meeting, The City Council heard a presentation from state Department of Taxation officials exploring how a potential state takeover of the city’s finances might look.

Taxation officials and council members repeatedly made comments that the meeting was informational and the city is in no immediate danger of state intervention.

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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