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Focus for teen center changes

by Merrie Leininger

The focus of the group that wants to bring a teen center to Carson Valley has slightly changed again.

Claudia Bertolone-Smith, a C.C. Meneley Elementary School teacher, said about 40 teen-agers and parents came to a meeting the week of March 15. The group decided a teen center was the most immediate need. A large community center, they reasoned, would take too much money and too long to get off the ground.

“We need a safe, fun, affordable place for teens to go right now. We need to get this ready within the year,” Bertolone-Smith said at a March 24 meeting. “Eight years down the road, if a big community center is built, then we will already be a part of the community and we can come in as a real strong partner.”

Bertolone-Smith said one of the reasons to get this off the ground now is to give teens a better image in the community.

She said the group received statistics from the sheriff’s dispatch center of calls regarding teen problems.

In May last year, the dispatch center received 43 “problem calls” about teen-agers, in June, 69 calls, in July, 102 such calls and in November, 45 calls.

“We want to take that number down,” Bertolone-Smith said. “We hope a center will result in less calls of people reporting teens hanging out and skateboarding.”

The group decided to find an existing building to rent rather than try to raise money to build a large community center. The group decided to seek donated materials rather than buy new items such as couches, gaming tables and sports equipment.

“Someone might have an air hockey table sitting in their basement right now,” said Bob Koreski of the Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Koreski said members of the group received of ideas from a trip to teen centers in Sacramento last weekend. North Area Teen Center in Carmichael was the best example of what the group wants to do, he said. It was started by a church and a deputy sheriff and has two paid employees and about 45 volunteers, with support from the local police.

The director of North Area will be coming to Gardnerville to speak to the group soon.

The center is in the middle of a commercialized area and rents a 5,000-square-foot building from a fitness center.

There is no admission cost for teens, and revenue is generated through a snack bar and video game machines. The center has donated computers and offers tutoring. The teens who participate created all the rules, Koreski said.

The group next plans to make up a business plan, apply for a grant and form a teen advisory group, then approach building owners to look for a site.