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Nelson Heights center to get pavilion
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The Nelson Heights Community Center is being used regularly for afterschool programming, and now the center is going to have an outdoor pavilion.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 19 to spend up to $23,000 of 2011 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) money to build a pavilion next to the center, which is located at the corner of Laseter and Puckett streets in the Nelson Heights neighborhood. The project will be bid out, Chairman Keith Ellis said at the Nov. 19 meeting.

The money will come from the $1.1 million District 4 Improvements SPLOST item. When the SPLOST list was developed, Commissioner J.C. Henderson requested the money for a workforce development center — which was recently constructed in the Walker’s Bend neighborhood off Ga. Highway 81 — and for parks and playground equipment for different neighborhoods.

While Nelson Heights was not specifically mentioned at the time, the actual SPLOST item voted on was left intentionally nonspecific to allow flexibility in spending the funds. All SPLOST purchases must be approved by the Board of Commissioners, as the pavilion was Tuesday.

Commissioner Nancy Schulz asked whether the county or the center’s board of directors would be responsible for maintenance costs. Ellis said he believed maintenance would be paid for through the county’s general fund.

The pavilion will have benches and tables, but they will not be permanently attached to the structure; Ellis said the county will use tables and benches that can fold and be stored in the building when the pavilion is not being used.

The pavilion will not have any lights and will not be used by the center’s officials at night.

New Community Center Director Veda Miller, who was hired this year, said the center currently offers afterschool programming from 3–6:30 p.m. for an average of 28 students per day. She said Nov. 19 the pavilion will be used for both recreation and teaching, particularly for science.

The pavilion is expected to be similar in size to the one at Lake Varner, which Ellis estimated was around 22 feet wide and 40 feet long.

Miller said teachers at Middle Ridge Elementary have reported improvements in behavior and academic performance among students who receive afterschool tutoring at the center.

The center has an annual budget of $32,000, including Miller’s part-time salary.

The center is funded by the county, and all purchases must be approved by the county’s finance department.

The center was built in 2009, using around $556,000 of 2005 SPLOST money. It was originally run for two years by the Newton County Recreation Commission, which contracted with the Washington Street Community Center to provide programming. The center is now overseen by a board of directors, with the county providing financial oversight.

Henderson, who also serves as chairman of the center’s board of directors, said Miller has done a great job.

Beaver Park to get new gazebo
In related news, county officials reported that the Recreation Commission is bidding out the rebuilding of the gazebo at Beaver Park in Mansfield, which was destroyed by the April tornado.