Delaware City Council on Dec. 20 expressed support for a proposal by the nonprofit Second Ward Community Initiative to establish a community center at 50 Ross St., to be operated by volunteers.

Delaware City Council on Dec. 20 expressed support for a proposal by the nonprofit Second Ward Community Initiative to establish a community center at 50 Ross St., to be operated by volunteers.

The building is currently owned by the city and partially occupied by the parks staff.

"We want to be able to provide more services in the community, because seniors won't venture beyond their homes," said Lamont Coates, pastor of the Second Baptist Church. "We have the Council for Older Adults on Cheshire Road, but many do not go there."

The center would be used for recreation, tutoring and other community purposes.

The agreement discussed Monday would provide the facility rent-free to the initiative, which would be responsible for raising funds and providing utilities and services such as Internet and telephone.

Associate pastor Tracey Sumner of Second Baptist Church said the initial indications are that the community has significant support for the idea.

"We've already started some fundraising toward any improvements," Sumner said. "We would welcome any (financial) help we can get from the city, but right now we have a lot of people around the city interested in what we are doing. Hopefully we'll be able to raise enough for the work, a few thousand dollars for plumbing, a lot of sweat equity time to go in and do the work ourselves."

Council members Lisa Keller and Windell Wheeler said the group would need to prepare more detailed budget projections and take into account regulatory and insurance requirements for any services it may offer.

"The church I go to, we've had to institute a lot of things we never thought we would have to do or desire to do, but in order to carry insurance you have to institute some of these policies," Wheeler said. "We don't even allow kids to leave the sanctuary without an adult being with them."

Council member Lisa Keller said a revenue source should be identified.

"You can build a community center, you can program it, but if you can't pay the electric bills next month, it won't work," Keller said.

Initially the city would likely provide the facility rent free. City administrator Tom Homan said that if the program is a success, the city could consider charging rent for the facility at that time.

The initiative estimated that some work could be done within 90 days. Council member Andrew Brush said agreements would have to be finalized before work could be done.

"Before there are any improvements made, we want to come up with a much more in depth lease and operating agreement," said council member Andrew Brush. "Once that is in effect, then you could move forward with adding a second bathroom and that sort of thing."

If council approves an agreement with the Second Ward Initiative, then the organization will begin to seek grant funding to operate the center, Coates said.