2006-09-28 / Front Page

Mixed school board support for teen center

By Donna K. Drago

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the School Committee was asked to support a proposal that would create a temporary Teen Center in the former offices of Town Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski, on the second floor at 23 Narragansett Ave., which also houses House of Pizza and Paws & Claws, owned by Szepatowski.

Szepatowski addressed the committee on the issue and said that the Teen Center at the Senior Center is not working out as hoped, and that some of the issues include that teens are not allowed to store any materials there or to use the kitchen.

Ultimately, Szepatowski said, she would like to see the teen center at the Community Center, but for now she said, "Just look at Narragansett Avenue at night. "They're out running in the streets" and need a place to go.

Szepatowski said her former office space could provide a computer room, a meeting room, a kitchen with television and an office for Melissa Minto, the Teen Center coordinator. Szepatowski envisioned the center being opened from after school to about 8 or 9 p.m. every day. The rental fee is $1,500 per month, Szepatowski said.

Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said she fully agreed that kids need a place to go, but expressed "major concerns" about the location in the middle of the commercial zone and directly next door to the Narragansett Café, where patrons often spill onto the sidewalk to smoke.

"I see a myriad of problems" with the location, Kaiser said.

Julia Held asked about insurance and liability issues associated with providing a town service in a privately-owned building. "What about the library?" Held suggested for an after hours "homework club."

Kaiser said there had to be other locations in town, like in local churches, she said.

"But they're there now," Szepatowski said about kids who hang out at night at Xtra/Mart and House of Pizza. She said that she was aware of many young teens with dysfunctional home situations who regularly ate their dinner at the pizza shop or from the offerings at the convenience store. "It's horrifying,' Szepatowski said about the lives of some of the teens.

The school board could not take a vote because the issue was not on the agenda.

Both Julie Kallfelz and William "Bucky" Brennan said that they would support the idea on an interim basis. Held said she'd like to see something definitive in terms of insurance and supervision.

Jim Filkins was not at the meeting due to a medical leave.

The item will be discussed by the School Committee and the Town Council at a joint Oct. 5 work session.

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