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Posted: June 10, 2014 10:00 p.m.

BOC: Rental policy at Nelson Heights center should change

County commissioners agreed Monday night that extra steps need to be taken when the Nelson Heights Community Center is rented out to ensure there’s no repeat of the May 30 “Bounce Dat Ass Part II” party that ended up with gun shots reportedly being fired in the air by a car passing by the center.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz said the party was the “elephant in the room,” and she thought the $40,000 appropriation the center was set to receive next budget year from the county should be contingent upon the center’s board of directors presenting commissioners with a plan to prevent future issues.

However, while her fellow commissioners agreed changes needed to be made, none of them supported making the center’s funding contingent, and commissioners also didn’t agree that other community centers around the county should have to change their policies.

“I’m not in support of withdrawing funds (because) of one night of activity,” Chairman Keith Ellis said.

Several policy changes were suggested, including:

• Chairman Keith Ellis suggested placing a curfew on the building, not allowing it to be rented out after 10 p.m., or even earlier if the Board desired

• Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who is the chairman of the center’s board, said he had already discussed the matter with Sheriff Ezell Brown and their idea was to require anybody renting the center – with the exception of a church function – to pay to have a sheriff’s deputy on duty during the event

• Commissioner Levie Maddox recommended possibly increasing the requirements that people have to meet in order to rent out the center. Using his experience as a landlord as a guide, Maddox said whenever a tenant trashed a rental home, Maddox would go back and try to see if there was anything in the tenant’s history that might have been a red flag. He said some ways to keep out bad tenants would be requiring things like higher deposits or higher credit scores.
Henderson previously told The News no laws were broken on center property, and he reiterated that Monday night.

“First of all, we should see if any laws were broken, or are we making a difference with Nelson Heights because it’s an election year?” said Henderson, referring to the fact he’s in a runoff election against challenger Sonya Hunte. “Sometimes during election time, people who don’t like particular candidates bring up something with no merit.”

The May 30 party got widespread attention of the gun shots fired and social media posts tied to a local gang; however, Henderson said some of the things posted on Facebook about the party weren’t accurate.

A Covington Police Department report said it took about two hours for crowds to disperse from the surrounding streets, but Henderson said Monday that the people immediately around the center came back into the building when instructed to do so. He said the issues were when people left for the night, but he said he didn’t think the center and community should be punished as a result.

The Nelson Heights Community Center, located at the intersection of Puckett and Laseter streets, was built using 2005 SPLOST funds, and officially opened in late 2010. It was originally run by the Washington Street Community Center and the Newton County Recreation Commission, but this past year it was run by a new Board of Directors with Henderson serving as chair.

The center is mainly used for after-school tutoring and programming, but also is frequently rented out for community events, including a summer camp going on now.

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