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by Paul Leakan
(June 23)It's a familiar refrain.
"From ages 16 and up, there's nothing to do around here but to get into trouble," said Toni Oliverio, a 19-year-old camp staffer for the YMCA.
Clarksburg City Council members have heard those complaints before. And they agree that teens need a place nearby to blow off some steam.
But before council members can decide on a facility, they want to know one thing: What does area youth really want?
"I want to have a meeting with some of the kids in the community," said Clarksburg Mayor Louis Iquinto. "I don't want to hear what grown-ups want, I want to hear what the kids want. We can make all the arrangements and promises in the world, but without their input it's all for null."
It's vital to provide a place for teen-agers to socialize, Iquinto added. He said he will bring up the idea of meeting with teen-agers during the next council meeting, July 2.
After all, when he was teen-ager, he could go dancing with his friends at the community center in Norwood Park. Teens no longer have similar places to go, he said.
"We have places for very young kids and places for older adults," Iquinto said. "But we have nothing in between for teen-agers."
Oliverio agrees. She said area teen-agers want a place to dance, socialize and have fun. But she said those places just don't exist in the area.
"There's no real dance clubs, or under 21 clubs here," she said. "If we wanted to do that, we would have to go out to Morgantown or Fairmont."
Chris Shreves, a 15-year-old from Nutter Fort, recommends a facility where kids can shoot pool, skateboard or Rollerblade.
One proposed solution could have turned the Carmichael Building back into a skating rink. Kathryn Folio, city councilwoman, recommended that the city hire MSES Consultants of Clarksburg to perform a feasibility study for the building.
But the building, owned by Salem-Teikyo University, was fraught with too many uncertainties, according to some council members. And during its June 18 session, council tabled the proposal.
"The only reason I voted against the skating rink proposal is because I feel we should have our own building," Iquinto said. "What if we put $100,000 into the building? And, let's say five years down the road, Salem-Teikyo wants to sell the building. What are we going to take with us? Nothing."
Council is once again targeting the Veteran's Administration Park as a site for an all-purpose facility. If finalized, the site might include basketball courts and an outdoor skating rink in the winter.
Whatever the city decides, the site should be free, open to all ages and safe, according to some local parents.
"Anything the kids can do (now) costs money, money, money," said Mary Kay Chipps, who has an 11-year-old grandson. "I think this is a great idea, but it will need a lot of adult supervision."