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December 11, 2012

Oneonta Teen Center to close

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — The Oneonta Teen Center will be closing Dec. 31 until further notice, according to a statement from the Oneonta Community Alliance for Youth, which operates the organization. The group will be exploring a reorganization strategy.

The center had operated from the basement of the city’s Asa Allison Jr. Municipal Building on Academy Street since 2006. It provides such services as recreational activities, workshops and a place to talk in a safe environment, Director Ian Austin said.

The rent is free, and the city provides $13,000 annually to the service, an official said.

It serves youths in seventh through 12th grade Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 to 11 p.m. An average of 20 to 30 people attended, Austin said.

Organization founder and board member Kate O’Donnell said in a statement: “A lot of great people have been involved with OCAY since its founding in 1996. New energies will arise to sustain safe creative, after-school activities for youth.”

She directed questions about the future of the Teen Center and OCAY to interim President Mark Davies, who said by email he was not available to speak by phone Monday. He did reiterate what was in the release.

Austin said the situation was explained to the students Friday.

“It’s very moving,” he said. “These are people I am very passionate about.”

The center provides a “community hub,” he said. “Although we don’t have much money, we do a lot with what we have.”

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said Monday he had not heard of the plans to close.

Two of the students affected, both seniors from Oneonta, said the closing will be a loss. Mary Verrelli said she was “really disappointed” to learn of the news, adding, “it was unexpected.”

She has been going for several years and attends several times a month such activities as workshops that include photography and filmmaking.

“I hope they can figure something else out,” she said. “It’s a great place to go.”

Greg Hunter said he was “really upset,” when he learned the news Friday. He has been going nearly every weekend since he was eligible. It was a place to be with people who shared interest in such areas as music and movies, he said. He will still go out with friends, but “it won’t be quite the same.”