OCEANSIDE — City Council OK’d spending reserve funds to support the San Luis Rey Community Resource Center — located in a high crime risk area — in a 3-2 vote on Aug. 18. Councilmen Jerry Kern and Jack Feller voted no.
The resource center was not funded in the recently passed city budget. Some argue that there are two other resource centers nearby; however, gangs in the area make it unsafe for children to venture into neighboring streets and cross rival gang lines to get to these centers.
“We had gang members shoot down Officer Dan Bessant (December 2006),” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said. “We know how critical that resource center is to the community and the residents.”
Since the officer shooting four years ago, more than 100 community and church volunteers have come forward to support and mentor youth at the San Luis Rey resource center.
“There is nowhere for these programs to go at the Melba Bishop center or Libby Lake Park,” Sanchez said. “We need funding to have the resource center at the location it’s at. I look forward to the day we don’t need resource centers, but this is a very critical time.”
Some valued not spending any of the $500,000 in reserve funds over keeping the center open. “We should not dip into the reserve for special funding for special people,” Kern said. “We need to hold the line. We need to maintain our budget fortitude. The facility should have been closed the end of fiscal year.”
The council majority decided that community safety comes first. “This is an emotional issue for me personally,” Councilman Chuck Lowery said. “These are great kids. I wouldn’t want my grandkids to be shot because they walked across the wrong street. Residents that live in that neighborhood are taxpayers like the rest of us. We need to keep these kids safe. I’m sorry it will take money to do it.”
Although reserve funds are OK’d to keep the center open, the city will look for ways to stretch its dollars before it starts spending.
The property owner gave the city free rent from February 2010 to July 2010 to allow the resource center to remain open, and will cut the rent on the storefront location in half and charge $1,800 a month for the remainder of the year.
Federal government funds for after-school programs may be redirected to the resource center to help ease costs coming out of city reserve funds.