LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory announced Friday his administration is closing four of Lafayette’s 10 recreation centers for the next budget year and is eliminating 37 positions from the Parks and Recreation Department.
In a press release, the administration said this was to avoid budget shortfalls in the upcoming fiscal year, calling it a “necessary decision to right-size spending…”
The four centers set to close are:
- Domingue Recreation Center
- Heymann Park Recreation Center
- J. Carlton James Activity Center
- George Bowles Activity Center
The Mayor-President explained taxpayers pay $3.5M in subsidies to help Parks and Recreation stay afloat each year. He communicated these recreation centers need to innovate before they can reopen.
Lafayette Parish District 5 Councilman A.B. Ruben said this hits close to home, “I understand what Josh is doing. Trust me. I understand him cutting, but don’t cut just me.”
This map shows roughly what Councilman Ruben is referred to.
According to him, all four recreation centers LCG plans to close are in his district on Lafayette’s Northside while the other six of ten are spared.
“This is personal,” Ruben told News 10 standing in front of Heymann Park Recreation Center. “I grew up in these gyms. I grew up in this one here as a matter of fact.”
Mayor-President Josh Guillory argued closing four Parks and Recreation centers and eliminating 37 employee positions had to be done, “To quite frankly cover overspending and low revenue brought on by years of neglecting to find innovative and creative solution that would otherwise bridge the financial shortfalls brought on by this department.”
In a video address, he explained $28M deficit ($18M from a previous budget and $10M projected because of business lost from COVID-19) forced his hand, “As we find ourselves in this financial situation, we have two options: manage our people’s money responsibly or raise taxes, and I vehemently oppose raising taxes.”
While Guillory stated, “These reductions represent the only responsible course of action in the situation that we face.”
Ruben disagreed, “We need these gyms. These rec centers are essential to the safety of our community.”
The councilman argued these activity centers are the saving grace of kids who would otherwise be on the streets.
“Now we’re telling our children, we don’t have anywhere for you to go. We don’t have anywhere for you to go work out. We don’t have anywhere for you to go the gym and play ball. We don’t have anywhere for you to go and do anything. Just hang out on the street and find something to do. Idleness is the devil’s playground,” Ruben insisted.
Joseph May walks to the Heymann Recreation Center five days a week and has no car. He was surprised to hear the news but thinks he knows why all the closures are in district 5.
“They’re cutting something that poor people benefit from, and poor people seem to get screwed a lot when it comes to cutting costs,” May stated.
Ruben said he doesn’t want anyone in his district suffering, and he doesn’t like that the cuts only target one demographic. “It hurts,” Ruben expressed. “You’re cutting me deep, and I’m not happy.”
The 37 layoff and parks and recreation closures will take place on August 14 according to the mayor-president.
The Mayor-President said amidst the difficulty, LCG has the opportunity to find creative solutions for efficiently reopening down the road such as naming rights, corporate or non-profit sponsorships, public-private partnerships, grant opportunities, and crowdfunding campaigns.
“We welcome all constructive dialogue that can assist us with moving towards a more positive outcome that preserves these assets and their contribution to the quality of life of our community,” Mayor-President Josh Guillory encouraged.
“We have to think outside the box,” Ruben admitted. “And by any means necessary get these gyms back open and get these employees back to work.”