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Washington Street officials to run NHCC
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The Nelson Heights Community Center is expected to officially open in August and will be run by the officials at the Washington Street Community Center.

Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey said his department will contract with WSCC, which was the most natural choice to run the center, located at the intersection of Laseter and Puckett streets.

“I think the whole intent of the Nelson Heights Community Center was to be run by Washington Street from the beginning. I don’t know how we got sidetracked,” Hailey said.

With the proposed budget cuts, the recreation commission would not have money to hire a full-time program director, so they had to look at contracted services.

“Washington Street is the best option. Several board members suggested them. It was a no-brainer,” he said.

WSCC officials will sign a two-year operating agreement with the recreation commission, with the ability to renew the contract annually. The contract is being finalized by county attorney Jenny Carter and is expected to be signed in the next several days.

WSCC will receive up to $32,000 per year from the recreation commission in order to run programs and pay for routine maintenance and utilities. The $64,000 was originally appropriated for NHCC in the county’s FY2009 budget and has been added to the recreation commission’s budget.

WSCC officials will be in charge of all programming decisions, and Hailey said he expected NHCC to have similar after-school programs. WSCC Executive Director Bea Jackson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

However, if any outside groups, like Newton Reads, want to come in and conduct programs, they will have to get permission from the recreation commission’s board of directors.

Hailey said if the recreation commission tried to run the center itself it would have cost more than $32,000 and would have required an additional county employee, which can’t be afforded.

“(WSCC’s) track record speaks for itself and is impeccable. There was no sense for us to try to duplicate what they already do so well,” Hailey said.

The NHCC will be allowed to be rented out for meetings and community events as previously discussed, at the discretion of WSCC. The rental fees will be finalized later, but all rental income will go to the recreation commission and will help cover the cost of the NHCC. Any costs over $32,000 will be covered by the recreation commission. However, any damage to the building, outside of normal wear and tear, will be covered by WSCC.

Hailey is a member of the WSCC Board of Directors, and he will resign to avoid a conflict of interest. In his place, the operating agreement calls for a resident of the Nelson Heights community to be appointed to the WSCC board.

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who worked to get the center on the 2005 SPLOST, has repeatedly stated he wanted the center to primarily benefit the surrounding community. Hailey thanked Henderson for his work and said the board member would serve to ensure the connection to the area residents.

WSCC officials will provide monthly reports of all programs to the recreation commission board of directors.

Hailey said Jackson is working to get additional grants to help fund programs at the center. He said all work at the building is completed including landscaping. Tables and chairs have been purchased and the county is in the process of purchasing a handful of computers for the center. The NHCC has sat vacant since it was completed last summer.

For the full story check out Friday's edition of The Covington News.