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"Give it back to us:” Group challenges leading bid for Punta Gorda rec center

Punta Gorda leaders are expected to vote Wednesday on the lease for the historic Cooper Street Rec Center, even though a group that was disqualified wants more time to re-bid.
Posted at 11:24 PM, Apr 16, 2024

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — On April 17, the Punta Gorda City Council will vote on whether to negotiate a lease with the YMCA of Southwest Florida to run the historic Cooper Street Recreation Center.

The future of the Rec. Center has been in question since the City voided the lease with the previous operator of the building, New Operation Cooper Street in Nov. 2023.

According to the City, it received three lease bid packages for The Rec. One was disqualified after it did not meet the qualification requirements, another package was withdrawn, which left the YMCA’s bid.

Community United Services, Inc bid twice and was disqualified both times by the City’s Procurement Board. Member of the group, Graciela Nurse-Carthy, told Fox 4 CUSI was not granted a 501 (3)(c) status before the end of the bid period.

“We are asking the city of Punta Gorda to withhold the award to the YMCA and give us an opportunity to get all of our documents together,” said Nurse-Carthy. “Give it back to us and let us restart the programs, that's all we’re asking.”

Nurse-Carthy served as the Director of the New Operation Cooper Street organization from 2004 to 2013. She said the building has been a pillar in the Black community, and all of Punta Gorda since the 1960’s.

Cooper St. Rec Center Mural
Graciela Nurse-Carthy describes the Cooper Street Rec. Center murals to Fox 4's Alex Orenczuk.

“This place was built 62 years ago when the Blacks were not allowed to participate in other functions because of segregation and Jim Crow laws,” said Nurse-Carthy.

Now, with the council’s vote on a lease negotiation with the YMCA looming, Nurse-Carthy wants another chance to bid on a lease.

“We can do a better job, we know that, we’ve done it before,” said Nurse-Carthy. “We want to come in and reset the clock back to where it was, taking this from this community is a slap in the face.”

The city council will vote on the matter at a council meeting on April 17 at 9 a.m. It is listed as item 6.a in the council’s regular agenda.