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Posted: March 3, 2010 8:44 p.m.

Rec Commission will run NHCC

Hailey: NHCC won’t open until program coordinator hired

The Nelson Heights Community Center will be run by the Newton Recreation Commission – end of story.

After years of preparation and months of debate, the NHCC’s future was finally decided Tuesday night, when the Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the recreation commission’s proposal to run the center.

In a repeat of recent votes on the issue, commissioners Mort Ewing, Nancy Schulz and Tim Fleming voted in favor of the recreation commission’s proposal, while commissioners Earnest Simmons and J.C. Henderson voted against it.

Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey said Wednesday he was glad the long debate was over.

“We did what the commissioners asked us to do, as far as running it and operating it. We will run it to the best of our abilities, and we hope the people in the community will take pride in what we’re going to do,” Hailey said. “We’ll try to set up programs in and around what the community needs. The key is to hire a person to run the center and answer questions about it.”

Hailey said the NHCC won’t open until a program coordinator is hired; likely sometime in April. This position was actually already built into the recreation commission’s budget as an hourly position, but the commission held off on any hires until the NHCC issue was decided.

Hailey said the commission now wants this person to be a salaried employee and make around $37,000 a year. The person would be available to work nights and weekends at the NHCC, and would also help out at other recreation facilities. Hailey said the job will be posted soon.

The only addition to the recreation commission’s budget will be the $64,000 that was originally appropriated for the center in last fiscal year’s budget. Hailey said the commission will use $32,000 this year and $32,000 next fiscal year to pay for maintenance and operational costs, buy furniture and supplies and make any repairs or upgrades to the building.

However, Hailey said additional part-time staff may need to be hired in the future to help with events and programs. In its proposal, the commission said the NHCC could be used for recreation programs, meetings, family celebrations, government functions and as a voting precinct.

Community members and organizations would have to pay to rent the facility, in to cover part of its operational expenses. The cost would be a $75 hourly fee or $300 daily fee for community residents, and a $100 hourly fee or $400 daily fee for non-residents.

However, the vote to approve the recreation commission’s proposal was not a simple matter. Before the vote, Henderson asked Chairman Kathy Morgan if Rev. Willie J. Smith and other members of the NHCC’s 501(c)(3) Board of Directors could make a presentation describing their plan to run the center. However, the chairman said the time to present any proposal was at the Feb. 16 NHCC public work session.

After some more back and forth between Henderson and Morgan, Ewing made a motion to accept the recreation commission’s proposal. Henderson believed that he should be able to call someone up to speak at any time, but Morgan said that decision was up to the board. Henderson attempted to make a substitute motion to allow the presentation, but was unable to do so.

After the motion was approved, Henderson sat silently and shook his head. After the meeting, he handed out the proposal that the 501(c)(3) BOD had been planning to make. It called for former Sharp Learning Center Principal Kenneth Daniels to be the center’s director and said Daniels had significant experience raising money.

The proposal also asked the BOC to give the group 30 more days to form a full business plan, which they hoped would be followed by an 18-month trial period during which the facility would become self-sufficient.

“We have a sound vision and strategy to enable us to fund the facility without any financial support from the county,” it stated.

Henderson said he didn’t know if the BOD would take any further action.

“The ball is in Rev. Smith’s court,” he said. “I felt they (the BOC) should have given Smith and Daniels an opportunity to at least speak. It wouldn’t have changed anybody’s mind, but it would have been common courtesy.”

In a telephone interview after the meeting, Smith said the BOD was done and would not pursue any further relationship with the county or recreation commission. Smith said it wouldn’t have mattered if the BOD had made their proposal because he knew Morgan, Ewing, Fleming and Schulz had already made up their minds.

“We’re done with it,” he said simply.

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