Mayor Jim Gray's administration has proposed closing the Cardinal Valley Center, which has traditionally provided social services to members of Lexington's Hispanic community along the Versailles Road corridor.
Services provided at the center — such as emergency help with rent and utilities and referrals to food banks — will be available at other city government offices, said city Social Services Commissioner Beth Mills.
Four employees at the center have been notified they will be laid off at the end of June if the mayor's proposed budget is approved by the Urban County Council later this month, Mills said.
The move, which would save an estimated $250,000 a year, is part of "sweeping budget cuts in the city government," Mills said. The Division of Social Services must cut spending by 11.5 percent in its budget for the upcoming fiscal year as Gray works to close a projected $27 million deficit in the budget.
Among other things, Gray has proposed laying off 28 city workers, abolishing more than 200 vacant positions, slashing spending on the police and fire departments, and closing Meadowbrook Golf Course.
In past years, the Cardinal Valley Center offered a myriad of activities and services for the Hispanic community such as English as a Second Language classes, a library and a clothing bank, especially when it was in another location at Oxford Circle.
But it has not been a community center in at least a year, Mills said. Most recently, the center at 1306 Versailles Road had been primarily used as a call intake center for all Urban County Government social services. Employees there offered case management and social service referrals to all people in area neighborhoods, not just Hispanics, she said.
"We won't be able to serve as many people because we have fewer staff, but it is services that are offered elsewhere in government ," she said.
Mills said the calls that had been taken at the center will go to LexCall 3-1-1 and the United Way's 2-1-1 line. She said people also could go to individual Urban County Government offices and agencies that provide social services, such as the Senior Center, the Division of Family Services and the Division of Youth Services. Spanish-speaking services will still be available, she said.
Andres Cruz, editor of the Latino newspaper La Voz De Kentucky, said he understood the need for budget cuts, but he thought closing the center was "an opportunity lost" because the center had helped the immigrant community and still had enormous potential.
Mills said a medical clinic that is run by Eastern Kentucky University will remain in the building.
And she said the Urban County Government might put another type of social service program in the building, but no decision had been made yet.
Urban County Councilwoman Peggy Henson, who serves the district where the center is located, said she hasn't opposed the closing because people will still be served at other places within city government.
"I would definitely go to bat for them if I felt like that wasn't the case," Henson said.
However, Henson acknowledged, "it will be an inconvenience for some folks."