Over the past few months, we had numerous requests asking how much money was actually spent on the Youth (Teen) Center in downtown Kennesaw. We paid to get the records of all spending related to the center and have included what we received throughout the article.
First things first: nobody is saying the youth center is not a good thing. Anytime there is a place where teens can go after school to get help with their homework, stay off the streets and in a better environment, it is a good idea. The questions that we hear the most often are: how did the city afford to do such a thing out of the middle of a budget year and why didn’t we know about it? To the citizens, it appears the youth center was not a planned or budgeted project. There was no mention of the project in the 2010 or 2011 FY budget. It came up during the middle of the year as a special project for a specific council member – Bill Thrash. So, how was this accomplished when budgets were tight and employees were forced to cut back, to the point of having no increases, little or no training and the threat of furloughs?
It was accomplished like so many other things around the city. A council member saw a need or was pressured by a special group and then ordered the city manager to make it happen. This is no different than any other political machine across the nation. From that stage, it’s simply a matter of getting creative and finding funds to get the project completed and keeping it on the “down low” until the proper time. Take a look at the records:
Some of the items in the file above have amounts that were paid out for clothing but there is no detail as to whether those clothes were for the students at the youth center or the staff themselves – or perhaps for the Council. Fontis Water appears to be water bottle deliveries for the center. There are also awards and trophies which may be for the youths, but again, there are no notes although we did ask for details. One of the council members did inform us that if anyone wants more information they can pay for each and every purchase order that will show all details of the purchases.
One thing we did find interesting is that the Marietta Daily Journal wrote a story about the youth center right about the time if was launched and the the story stated that transportation would be provided by Success for All Students, which is a Cobb Program paid for by grant monies.MDJ Article on Teen Center
However, if you notice, in the first attachment in this article, there is an entry for $43,000+, showing a transport vehicle to be used for the Youth Center. We have also learned that they have acquired a full time employee who spends a large amount of her salary (in excess of $65,000) at the youth center. So much for volunteers only, huh?
We really don’t have any more answers than we did when we started this exploration. We have more questions. First, why wasn’t something this large put before a vote for the taxpayers before spending these amounts of monies? Taxpayers monies. Finally, when we originally inquired about this, we were told that the center was going to be maintained by donations…we just don’t see those reflected in these numbers. Where are they?
And speaking of maintenance: Let’s talk about the building itself for a minute. There was originally a plan to make the Community Building (the yellow building across from the Southern Museum) the home of the Youth Council. However, that plan changed and the Youth Center moved into the old Hardware Store on Main Street, forcing an entire rebuild and remodel and as you can see, that was very costly. We are not told why the sudden change or why the signs are still up? We do know from a council member that the youth group will be moving into another building and it still isn’t the Community House.
Our point is that it’s very difficult to do planning with a moving target. With no planning costs will be higher for the taxpayers. Our other questions are these: are we paying for each of these subsequent buildings to be brought into ADA compliance? What are the construction costs on that? Is the city bearing the costs on all of this and if so, why? What is the budget for the center? Who is managing it? Is there a 5 year plan? a 3 year plan? We just don’t know because it was never discussed and brought before the residents and voters. Once again…all we ask for is transparency.