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Ventura County

El Rio Recreation Program to Close

Youths: Sheriff's league runs out of money for after-school and summer activities at the new community gym.

September 04, 2002|AMANDA COVARRUBIAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An after-school and summer program in El Rio is shutting its doors because the cash-strapped Ventura County Sheriff's Department cannot afford to keep it afloat.

The Police Activities League in El Rio served about 250 children at the community's new gym but ran out of money Sunday, two days before the start of classes in the rural town near Oxnard, Cmdr. Marty Rouse said.

Soledad Trevino, a Nyeland Acres resident who sits on the 12-member league board, said that losing the popular program will hurt the entire community.

"We have a high gang rate in this particular area, so this is going to be a hard blow," Trevino said Tuesday.

As the Sheriff's Department tries to trim about $3 million from its budget this year, it also plans to cut a community policing officer in Piru, a technician in Saticoy and the DARE anti-drug program in unincorporated areas of western Ventura County and Ojai, Rouse said. The DARE cuts will affect about five schools.

Although county Supervisor John Flynn, who represents El Rio, agreed to pay half the $100,000 cost of the Police Activities League, the Sheriff's Department could not afford to pick up the remainder, Rouse said.

The league was the only organization to offer after-school and summer activities in the new $3-million gymnasium. It organized youth sports leagues, dances and field trips, paid for by the Sheriff's Department, the Rio Elementary School District and a three-year state grant.

The state grant ended this year, and the Sheriff's Department and school district are facing budget shortfalls.

Trevino and several other community members expressed frustration a year ago because the gym sat idle most of the time as county and Rio school district officials quarreled about which agency was responsible for managing recreation programs. Then the Police Activities League stepped in, attracting as many as 150 young people a day to the community gym after school.

The Sheriff's Department will keep the gym open with an officer for another week or two while Flynn's office and sheriff's officials try to work out a solution, Rouse said.

Flynn, who is out of the country until Sept. 16, will meet with Sheriff Bob Brooks when he returns, said Elizabeth Montijo, an administrative aide to the supervisor.

"Children really enjoyed PAL, and we want to keep it," Montijo said. "If the funds aren't available, we have to look at something else."

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