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PUNTA GORDA | Closing or not? New questions ahead for Cooper Street Rec Center

Posted at 10:44 PM, Nov 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 22:44:51-05

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Greg Murray, the city manager of Punta Gorda says the city owns the land the New Operation Cooper Street Recreation Center is on and the building it functions out of.

“We've started looking at all the leases for the city," Murray said.

The board of people who run the center have been worried about the city closing it down. Murray says there are actionable steps to keep this from happening.

“We maintain the whole property, we maintain the playgrounds, the building itself, the air conditioning units, everything right down to the water service," he said.

The lease defines how the center serves the public, noting getting teens ready for college, and serving as a historic library.

Murray says the purposes need to be made more clear to council.

“To date, the city really has no information on what programs are being offered, the outcomes of the programs are making sure that the public purpose is as intended, except for we know that the YMCA is providing before and after school programs that are quite successful," he said.

He says the statutory requirement notes public land paid for by tax dollars or public facilities must provide a public purpose that's defined, so it can continue to operate.

“If we don't make the lease legally sufficient, in theory, there is no public purpose and we really can't keep the doors open," Murray said.

The fate of the building is a conversation for now, between the center's leaders and the city's leaders.