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Many Protest Privatizing Baltimore Rec Centers

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McCorkel Meghan 370x278 (2) Meghan McCorkell
Meghan McCorkell joined the Eyewitness News team in July 2011 as a...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A plan to privatize some Baltimore rec centers is under fire. Wednesday night, a full house showed up to a meeting with city leaders.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the community backlash.

Many community members are upset with the plan to privatize 25 of the city’s 55 rec centers, but city leaders say with budget cuts, it may be the only way to save them.

“You are about to give away a gem in our community to strangers,” said Jenny Dill, Roosevelt Rec. Council.

There was fiery feedback from a standing room only crowd.

“Every time there’s a financial crisis, you can’t keep cutting the children short,” said Bill Tyler, Chief of Recreation.

Community members are concerned about the city’s plan to turn over management of 25 rec centers to businesses and nonprofits.

“Why would it be important to privatize it? To give your rec center away?” said Dill.

But with massive budget cuts looming, officials say it’s necessary.

“The goal is not to close any rec centers,” said Chief of Recreation Bill Tyler.

With funding slashed, the chief of recreation says finding partners may be the only solution.

“We aren’t going to be able to do it without partners, so it is vital,” Tyler said.

Some city leaders say the process of partnering with business and nonprofits needs to be simplified.

“It was 65 pages of requirements. It was heavy-duty expensive,” said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.

There’s no cookie cutter answer, says Clarke. She thinks each center should be handled individually.

“Every community is going to have a different way of doing it and structuring it,” Clarke said.

More control over what’s happening is what many here are craving.

“I don’t recall anybody coming to me or coming to anybody in the community saying, `What do you all want? What do you all need?'” said rec center volunteer Gary Stanford.

Tyler recently told the City Council all recreation centers will remain open through the end of June.

Seven companies and nonprofits have turned in proposals to run 16 of the rec centers. The city will request another round of proposals at the end of this week.

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