Councilors propose Dunbar purchase

June 10, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Two city councilors have asked the Sarno Administration to consider buying the Dunbar Community Center and operate the center.

Mayor Domenic Sarno replied the city is still doing “its due diligence” in deciding what moves would be appropriate to save the institution.

In April, Sarno appeared at the community center to announce the launch of an investigation in the city’s involvement in preventing the building from being seized through foreclosure by its mortgage holder.

City Councilors Justin Hurst and Bud L. Williams wrote Sarno on May 23. In their letter, they said, “We are writing to applaud your efforts to study the potential ownership of Dunbar Community Center by the city of Springfield.  Dunbar has a rich history of serving the Old Hill and McKnight neighborhood for over 100 years.  The programs offered at this center teach our young adults the importance of community, sportsmanship and most of all it offers them a family atmosphere.  The latter is too often missing in our urban homes. It is critical that this center stay open and viable to serve the youth.”

They continued, “We would also like to share the idea of the city operating the center. We realize there has been a private board and organizations assisting Dunbar.  Unfortunately, this partnership has not been a complete success. It is time for the city to step in and our Park Department has the track record of working with the community and offering quality recreational programs. You can look to the former South End Community Center as a partnership and the Greenleaf Community Center. These facilities are critical to the stabilization of our neighborhoods. We recently learned that you have increased the department’s budget to ask for more after school sites across the City, so you understand their ability to turn Dunbar Community Center in the right direction.”

They concluded, “We appreciate the opportunity to share our view and are available to meet with you at your convenience to explore the potential of a city owned and operated Dunbar Community Center.”

On May 24, Sarno replied, “Thank you for your kind words. Please, at this crucial time, allow my administration to continue to do their due diligence first.”

He added, “We are currently reviewing all options in order top save the Dunbar Community Center. We will update you at the appropriate time. God bless.”

Hurst explained to Reminder Publications the letter was written to “make sure it [the issue] is still on the radar.”

Hurst is on the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Greater Springfield and commended the organization, which has been operating the program at Dunbar calling the results “phenomenal.”

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