CARBONDALE — The future of the I Can Read! of Southern Illinois program could be in jeopardy.
The reading enhancement program, which offers after-school help to children from kindergarten through fifth grade, has asked the city for an increase of $18,740 over fiscal year 2017’s funding levels to cover their rent at the Eurma C. Hayes Center, which has nearly tripled.
I Can Read! Director Margaret Nesbitt said the center has proposed the rent increase to cover repairs for the aging building, located in Carbondale’s northeast neighborhood. She said the electrical wiring and HVAC systems need an overhaul.
“The building is just old and everything’s just catching up with it. … It’s time now for a remake of the Eurma Hayes Center, and it’s expensive,” Nesbitt said.
Eurma C. Hayes Center Director Carlton Smith declined to be interviewed for the story.
The Eurma C. Hayes Center was built in 1974 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Model Cities program. When that program dissolved, the City of Carbondale took control of the building and oversaw it until 2010.
At that point, the city moved to either sell the community center or donate it to a nonprofit organization. Eurma C. Hayes Center Inc. was formed and took over the building.
The Carbondale City Council discussed community agency funding for the FY 2018 budget at their most recent meeting on March 7. I Can Read! had requested a budget of $29,040, up from $10,300 for FY 2017.
City staff recommended funding at the FY 2017 level.
“We do want to continue our work. We’d like to continue helping the children. That’s our goal. Wherever we have to be, we want to continue the work,” Nesbitt said while addressing the Council.
At the meeting, Mayor John “Mike” Henry said he and City Manager Gary Williams had been making inquiries about other facilities the program could move to.
“We’re not going to let you go away,” Henry said.
Councilman Lee Fronabarger brought up the point that there are several churches in the vicinity that might be able to host the program.
The city will have a budget hearing on April 11 and approve the final budget for FY 2018 on April 25.
Reached Wednesday evening, Williams said the city had provided the program with several contacts and will continue to help them as needed.
“We need help, because we want to keep the service for people in Carbondale. It’s a community center. That’s what it’s about,” Nesbitt said.