Future of Neighborhood Center still in question
Facility being repaired, refurbished, but West Memphis city officials uncertain about how it will be used going forward
Renovations are underway to open reopen the L.R.
Jackson Neighborhood center, but just what the building will be used for remained up for discussion after a special work session of West Memphis City Council. Councilwoman Ramona Taylor chaired the meeting and presented a lease proposal bringing in senior adult day care program. Other city council members wanted the center at 1300 East Polk opened to community groups in the evenings and dedicated to summer youth programs.
Students will be out of school in a month and the future of the building was yet to be decided.
Taylor said it was time to consider the lease before renovations continue. The group for seniors presented special kitchen needs and offered repair money to set it up to meet their requirements.
The estimate for plumbing repairs in the kitchen was $400.
“Food service requirements have changed since the kitchen was built,” said Taylor. “If they have the money to repair what we’d have to spend money on, then we should hold off that part of the restoration.” The city tapped Commu- nity Development Block Grant Funds to undertake the work. The roof repair cost $30,000 and about $50,000 remained. The center has been closed for the last four summers.
Everybody agreed that before interior remodeling would be undertaken that the future use of the building be determined. Taylor made a pragmatic appeal pitching the senior care.
“We need to make the most of our CDBG funds,” said Taylor. “If we have a tenant that will make some of the repairs we should consider that. If we don’t do that then what is the plan for the building? If we spend a lot of money on the building we need a plan.”
Councilman Willis Mondy wanted the building open to a wider array of meetings and wanted locals running the building. The school district offered to buy the building and adjacent Horton Park for a new school.
City Council turned them down.
“The school board wanted to take it for nothing,” said Councilman Willis Mondy.
“The reason we saved the building was for or community to have programs.
We can set up programs for the elderly with people from our own community. I don’t see some company from Jonesboro coming in and taking over our neighborhood center.”
”We haven’t identified anyone else,” said Councilwoman Melanie Hutchinson. “We have not reached out to anyone else. We are back to square one because we have not taken the initiative.”
Councilman Marco Mc-Clendon thought multiple uses would be the best option for the community.
The proposed senior citizens program would run from 7:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. The prospective lease offered the building rent free in exchange for certain maintenance and paying the utilities. McClendon asked about sharing space with children during the summer, with after school programs beginning in the fall, and having the building open for community meetings in the evening. The building history included various community activities including services for the elderly, head start and after school programs. A busy slate of activities made key control too hard in the past.
“Who will staff the place and how will we pay them?” asked Taylor.
“We must come up with the money from somewhere,” said Mondy.
“Kids need somewhere to go in the summer,” said Councilwoman Helen Harris.
Four youth clubs in the city receive five figure checks from the city each quarter for operations. The funds come to the city through Southland tax revenue. Checks this spring amounted to 11,000 for each youth club.
The group also discussed security and key control, two issues that led to closing the vandalized building for health and safety reasons. No signs of forced entry were ever found. Taylor talked about getting another Sky Cop camera to watch the busy intersection at 14th and Broadway. The proposed lease remained up in the air.
“We don’t need to decide today, we need to have further discussion on it,” said
By John Rech