Two town commissions agreed Wednesday to create a long-awaited teen center in the game room of the Marblehead Community Center.
Acting on a proposal by the non-profit Marblehead for Teens organization, the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Council on Aging agreed to open the room and the gym on a limited basis for about 90 days or until the end of the school year. The boards then plan to review the trial period before agreeing to extend the use of the room for the summer or possibly wait until September to continue the teen center.
"They gave me everything I asked for and more," said Molly Williams, executive director of Marblehead for Teens. "This is awesome."
Marblehead for Teens has been searching for a location for a teen center to provide a place for teenagers to congregate after school and hang out with their friends.
Abbot Library has also been working for several years to design and build a teen room at the library where teens can come to read and do their homework.
Details to Be Worked Out
The boards left many of the details to be decided by the Parks Superintendent Brendan Egan and Council on Aging Director Patricia Roberts, but in general the plan is to open the room from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week and the gym two Friday nights per month from 5 to 10 p.m. or possibly an hour later.
The agreement between the town and the Marblehead for Teens will be subject to review by the town attorney.
The boards agreed to waive the rental fees for the room and gym this spring, but will impose a fee of $25 an hour to pay for a staff member to be on hand on the Friday nights.
"There is just no wiggle room in the budget on staff," said Recreation and Parks Commission Chairman Charles Osborne.
Osborne said after the 90-day pilot program, the boards may ask Marblehead for Teens to pay some rental on the space. He estimated that the Recreation and Parks Commission, which operates the Community Center, would lose about $600 this spring by waiving the fees.
"We may have to meet in the middle going forward," Osborne said.
The boards also agreed that the teens, working with the staff, could repaint and decorate the dull green walls in the room to be more teen friendly. The organization would have to purchase the paint.
Teens Can Bring Food to the Center
They also agreed to allow the teens to have food and soft drinks in the room. Now the only food allowed in the building is in the dining room. To prevent pests in the building, the teens were told they would have to clean up the room each evening and put food in a refrigerator or steel cabinet.
The boards also said the teens could bring in a television set and sofas and chairs, but they have to be moved to the back of the room behind a curtain when not being used.
Williams said that the organization can now begin raising the money needed to operate the teen center. "We could not begin fundraising until the teen center was approved," she said.
One concern to the boards was an exit door at the back of the room. The teens were told they could not use that door except in an emergency. Several board members suggested that the door should be alarmed to prevent teenagers using it.
Two teens, Gabriel Weiner and Alexa Weislein, thanked the boards for approving the teen center.
Weiner said the center is needed so teens have a stress-free place to hang out. "I'm happy. We are going to have some fun," he said.