Council eyes Teen Center funding

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By Arin McKenna

Council Chair Geoff Rodgers began Tuesday’s Los Alamos County Council session with a moment of silence.


“I would like to take a moment of silence tonight to acknowledge and remember the recent death of one of our young people, Tyler Van Anne, as well as all of the other young people who have passed away in our community as the result of suicide,” Rodgers said. 

Rodgers quoted a teen at Van Anne’s funeral, who said, “Not one more.”

“It’s certainly something that we hope all of our young people will take to heart, but it’s also something all of us need to listen to, because we all play a role in stopping this in our community.”

During public comment, Los Alamos Teen Center staff and supporters advocated for the center’s role in supporting youth and made an impassioned plea for more funding. The center is struggling with the 10 percent budget reduction the county has mandated for all service providers and contractors.

In order to reduce the center’s budget from $190,000 to $180,000, the center plans to cut hours as well as arts and music production programs after the first of the year.

Center staff have also identified additional needs, such as having two staff on duty at all times in order to adhere to Child Protection Policies.

Program Director Sylvan Argo laid out the center’s needs. They are:

• To stay open on Saturdays (through June): $7,000

• To reinstate arts and music production programming (through June): $4,500

• To reinstate 7–8 p.m. Monday–Wednesday: $1,500

• To purchase/replace basic equipment: minimum $6,000

• To have 2 staff at all times (currently 1 staff between lunch and after school): $3,500

Reinstating the $10,000 cut from the center would allow it to remain open during its current hours of operation and purchase some minimal equipment. An additional $12,500 would give the center funds to follow best staffing practices and offer some basic popular enrichment programming.

A letter from teen center staff to council states that, “These past couple weeks, we have observed an increased need to be open as a space to come together, a place for teens to connect to peers, community, and support systems. We are a resource – one piece of a larger puzzle, and our need to remain open on Saturdays and later hours is more important than ever.”

The center has received generous donations from the community as well as grant money for outdoor programming. Staff is currently pursuing additional grant options. 

New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act does not allow council to comment or take action on items not on the agenda. However, Councilor Steve Girrens, with the support of other councilors, asked to have the issue placed on the agenda of an upcoming council meeting.