City wants to privatize Roosevelt Recreation Center

Hampden community leaders were planning a protest Oct. 5 of Roosevelt Recreation Center's inclusion on a list of rec centers that Baltimore City wants to privatize.

They said the city reneged on a promise not to contract out the management of the centers.

"We are not afraid to fight City Hall," Lisa Meyers-Naill, president of the Roosevelt Park Recreation Council, wrote in an undated letter to Deputy Mayor Kaliope Parthemos. "We will fight you with all of our being. This center is not just a building to our community, it is part of our heritage and childhood."

The rec council is also starting a petition drive to keep the center city funded and operated.

The city wants to partner with nonprofits and other groups to run some of the city's 55 municipal recreation centers, and has already issued a "Request for Proposals for management and operation of recreation centers," as part of a cost-saving strategy that also would include expanding 10 recreation centers.

A pre-bid conference Sept. 15 was attended by about two dozen people, said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who went.

"There wasn't anybody there who looked like they wanted to run the Roosevelt Rec Center," she said.

Clarke said she opposes the inclusion of Roosevelt as one of the rec centers available to bidders. Bids are due Oct. 5, she said.

In the Request for Proposals, known as an RFP, the city is offering three-year contracts to "stabilize recreation facilities and move them towards safer, more encompassing community centers with expanded services available through partnerships based on financial reality."

The operators would take control of the facilities in "as is" condition, provide all personnel, expertise, equipment and supplies, and oversee daily operations, including promotions, concessions, and pricing and fee structures, the RFP states.

The winning bidders would also conduct everything from employee background checks to an annual audit for the city. And they would have to insure the city against damage.

Meyers-Naill said the city approached her recreation council in August 2010 and broached the idea of "partnering" with the city. She said she told the city's chief of recreation, William Tyler, that the council could not afford to run the rec center, and that Tyler assured her that "our center would not be one of the available centers for partnering, and that the city would be keeping our center."

Rec council members met at the center at West 36th Street and Falls Road on Tuesday night and agreed to stage a protest at the center Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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