Coon Rapids teen center given a financial boost

The Element Center Teen Center in Coon Rapids has received a financial boost.

Frank Mannella, president and chief executive officer of Coon Rapids-based Cedar Valley Exteriors, presented Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe with a check for $7,500 to help keep the teen center open in 2014 at the Coon Rapids City Council’s Nov. 6 meeting.

Frank Mannella (right), president and chief executive officer of Coon Rapids-based Cedar Valley Exteriors, presents a $7,500 check to Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe (left) to support The Element Teen Center in 2014.
Frank Mannella (right), president and chief executive officer of Coon Rapids-based Cedar Valley Exteriors, presents a $7,500 check to Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe (left) to support The Element Teen Center in 2014.

The teen center reopened Oct. 1 at the city-owned Riverwind Community Center on Northdale Boulevard after it had closed Aug. 22 when funds to operate it ran out.

The council has approved $3,250 from the general fund to keep the teen center open through Dec. 22, but until the Cedar Valley Exteriors donation there was no funding in place for 2014.

According to Mannella, the donation was to keep the teen center operating next year for the “enjoyment and benefit” of the teens that use it.

“Our goal is to find a way to keep this great program open,” Howe told Mannella.

When teens appeared at a council open mike session in September urging the city to continue the teen center, “we heard from their hearts” what the teen center means to them, he said.

“We are looking at ways to make it happen,” Howe said.

At a work session Oct. 1 councilmembers wanted the teen center to continue in 2014, but there was no consensus on what form the program would take.

The city and Anoka-Hennepin School District 11 Community Education, which operated the teen center prior to its closing in August, reached agreement that the city would pay for the teen center operation with previous staff through Dec. 20.

In the meantime, discussions were to take place between the city and community education staff on the future staffing, programming options and budget needs.

A meeting between community education staff and city staff has not yet occurred, but they are in communication regarding future plans, according to Heather Peters, District 11 Community Education communications coordinator.

The council plans to meet in a work session prior to the Tuesday, Dec. 3 council to make a decision on the future of the teen center.

At the regular meeting, the council will have a public hearing on the proposed 2014 tax levy and then is expected to adopt the final 2014 tax levy and budget.

The preliminary levy and budget approved in mid-September did not include any money for teen center operations.

But dollars can be added into the budget before the final action provided the levy does not increase.

The donation from Cedar Valley Exteriors was a big boost and helps with the overall budget, according to Councilmember Denise Klint, who is strongly in favor of The Element continuing to operate in 2014.

“It may encourage other businesses to come forward as well,” Klint said.

The community education department has operated the teen center since it opened at Riverwind in 2002 through a joint powers agreement.

Most of the funding had come from an annual appropriation of $5,000 from the city as well as an annual $7,500 grant from the Anoka County Board to Coon Rapids Youth First, which passed on the money to the community education department for the teen center. Community education also contributed some funding as well as staff time.

But in November 2012, Coon Rapids Youth First dissolved because of a decline in participation and its remaining assets, some $11,000, were earmarked for the teen center.

That money ran out in August.

At the work session Oct. 1, the council consensus was that the teen center budget should remain at the present figure, about $15,000.

One option for funding the teen center discussed by the council Oct. 1 was to take the money from the city’s annual allocation to District 11 Community Education for community schools programming in the city, which amounts to $112,500.

According to City Manager Steve Gatlin, $78,000 of those dollars go to youth programs in the elementary and middle schools, $16,000 to teen programs in the schools and $18,500 for summer programs in the city.

In addition, Gatlin said staff has also reviewed the condition of the Riverwind building, which dates back to the 1960s, and it will cost anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 to bring it up to code and make some safety improvements.

That money could come from the city’s facilities construction fund, Gatlin said.

Teen center hours are Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 4:30-7:30 p.m. and Fridays from 6-9 p.m.

Cedar Valley Exteriors was founded in 1998 by Mannella and Jeff Hausman. A home renovation company, it specializes in roofs, windows, siding and gutters.

According to its website, Cedar Valley Exteriors has helped property owners in 28 states affected by damaging weather conditions – hail, wind and hurricanes.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]