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Recreation Commission could run new Community Center
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In order to solve the debate over the future of the recently completed Nelson Heights Community Center and make it operational, the Recreation Commission board will examine whether it can and should take control of the center.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed to have the Recreation Commission board look into the situation to see if it would be willing and able to run the center from its budget.

The NHCC, located at 7200 Laseter St., was completed a couple of months ago, but after the three years of delays, the original purpose and management of the building was called into question. The most important question for commissioners was who is going to fund and operate the center.

The options over the past couple of years have included having Washington Street Community Center run the center, having the center be self-funded by renting it out like the Mansfield Center and having the recently created NHCC non-profit board of directors run the center, while funding it through a combination of rental fees and county appropriations. The Recreation Commission option was first brought up Tuesday.

District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, in whose district the center will be located, has been pushing for this last option, but Chairman Kathy Morgan and other commissioners have expressed concern because the BOC never voted to create a 501(c)3 for the center, nor did it ever specify how the center would be run and operated. They had some concerns about the county funding a facility which it did not oversee.

The center was approved by residents in the 2005 special local options sales tax vote, but District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said that the wording of the SPLOST only specified that the county was to buy land in District 4 and build the center.

"From my perspective, I feel that the Board of Commissioners has fulfilled its obligation to voters of Newton County by approving the purchase of the land and the construction of the building," Ewing said, adding that he supported the Mansfield Center option.

However, if it works out, all commissioners seem to find the Recreation Commission option a suitable compromise. Hailey said that he would discuss the idea of the Recreation Commission taking over the center with the commission’s board of directors at its Sept. 28 meeting.

"I think this a great project and we need to get the logistics worked out. I can’t speak for the (Recreation Commission board), but I serve at your pleasure, and if you commission us to do it, we will run that facility like we run Tuner Lake or any facility," Hailey said.

Hailey said the idea was proposed because the county was looking for other management options and because the Recreation Commission has experience running centers and facilities. Hailey said some of the biggest questions will be whether the commission can afford to run the center, what kind of additional funding could be secured and what role the existing 501(c)3 board would have.

Hailey said the commission’s experience partnering with Washington Street would be valuable in possibly getting after-school and community programs set up, in addition to recreation programs.

The original FY2010 business plan called for the center to provide parent meetings, after-school tutoring, arts and crafts for citizens of all ages, field trips, youth development, recreation programs, special events and summer camps, wellness programs, computer training and work ethics training. The plan also called for rental services for civic groups, churches and families.

According to the plan, the proposed FY2010 budget was $52,840, including $37,100 for a director’s salary and benefits, $6,240 for a part-time employee, $2,000 for security, $500 for a petty cash fund and $7,000 for a used van. The money was originally budgeted in FY2009 and comes out of the $500,000 set aside in the 2005 SPLOST. Expected rental revenue was $450 per month.