A recreation center would give Sykesville youths an alternative to hanging out, but the town can ill afford a $500,000 expenditure to curtail juvenile loiterers.
Most residents agree the town needs a productive place for its children and teen-agers to gather, but everyone wonders who can foot the bill.
"We want a real people place, that would hopefully be the focal point for the town," said William R. Hall Jr., Park and Recreation Committee chairman.
The committee is turning to the business community for financial assistance. Members have written to about 50 local businesses asking for donations to the project.
"Over the years, the residents of Sykesville have given your business their loyal patronage," Mr. Hall said in a letter mailed last month. "We now come to you for help in sponsoring a project which will require broad-based community support."
The committee has also sent another letter to businesses in the extended South Carroll community.
"The center will serve a number of unmet needs," Mr. Hall wrote. "Most essential is a safe place for our children to gather for activities rather than loitering on parking lots of local businesses."
Rose Ann Fischer, a committee member, plans to make follow-up phone calls to letter recipients and ask for pledges.
"We all want to raise the money for a rec center," she said. "Kids should be our main concern."
The proposed 1996 budget has set aside $80,000 for a recreation hall, less than 20 percent of the estimated cost to build on town-owned property along Sandosky Road.
The proposed center, which would be supervised by adult volunteers, would house a basketball court and game rooms, a kitchen and a small meeting room.
"Kids could come after school to a place near their homes in town," Mr. Hall said. "We could plan daylong summer activities and possibly a day care center."
With less than $3,000 in its building fund now, the group is planning fund-raising activities, in addition to the letter-writing campaign. A winter's end dance for adults and a summer concert are in planning stages.
Although the committee has no architectural drawings, members propose building a 40-by-60 semicircular building on land near the town recycling center.
"The ballpark estimate is between $300,000 and $500,000," Mr. Hall said. "It is not just the building but what goes in it that drives the cost up."
Mr. Hall would like a regulation basketball court with room for spectators. He also wants to provide sports equipment.
"We could sponsor games and possibly dances," he said. "The kids would have a place to go and something to do."
The town enforces a 9 p.m. curfew weeknights to keep juveniles off the streets.
"A curfew is fine, but there will be some who buck the system," Mr. Hall said. "Let's give them a place to channel their energy."
Mr. Hall knows it could be years before crews dig a foundation.
"We may be reaching for the moon, but if we can get it, we can correct problems we have in town with kids," Mr. Hall said.
Mr. Hall said the committee is giving itself a year before it relinquishes plans for a new center.
"We will know by the end of 1995, if this is a fruitful effort or not," he said. "If not, then, we will have to look for an alternative in an existing building."
Where that building might be is anybody's guess, he said.