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Controversy over new Neighborhood Center occupants

Controversy over new Neighborhood Center occupants

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New EAAAA sign on building a point of contention for some on West Memphis council

[email protected] Just one business day after the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging hung its new sign on the east side of the Roberta Jackson Neighborhood Center, some West Memphis City Council members began to stir.

Councilwoman Lorraine Mohamed said she felt deceived over the new sign and called the sign a dishonor to local Black history.

'Does anyone know who authorized this signage?'

asked Mohamed in a group text with other city council members. 'Who gave authority to change it from the Roberta Jackson Neighborhood Center? I think we had a fast one pulled on us. Nothing came through city council giving authority. Do we just do as we please without authorization these days? It's got to come down. Council did not approve.'

'We haven't talked about this,' said Councilman Charles Wheeless, 'Someone has approved this on their own.'

'This needs to be looked into because we did not approve this,' said Councilwoman Helen Harris.

The city's Design & Review Commission had heard the sign request, with

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Photos by John Rech NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER (cont.)

commissioners reviewing renderings and gaving the green light. The EAAAA had leased the building under Mayor Bill Johnson and awaited city councilapproved remodeling before moving in.The nonprofit organization expressed desires to the board for senior citizens in the community to be able to find the right entrance door. The EAAAA had been in the building for more than three months before the sign was installed last Friday.

The building still bears the Roberta Jackson name and dedication.

Councilman Wayne Croom called the sign practical, but also asked for the city attorney to review the lease after hearing his fellow council members' concerns.

'Whether the sign should be there or not, they need something to assist our citizens to be able to locate them,' said Croom. 'Until the lease is reviewed for verification by the city Attorney, the Aging Agency sign is on the east side of the building where they are located.'

The city council ordered the center shuttered in 2012 after election volunteers found the building vandalized ahead of the general election that year.

Damaged toilet fixtures and broken, open doors and windows were found as polling was to be set up.

In the eight-and-a-half-year vacancy, city council wrestled with funding and design plans. City council ultimately turned the project over to the city planning and development department to oversee details and see the project through.

The EAAAA represents the only activity in the building bearing the late community leader's name since that time, when they moved into the east end of the building this spring.

City purchasing agent Kenneth Johnson was charged with overseeing the building until city council set a course for future use for the west half of the neighborhood center. 'At this point, the council has not given any direction on renting the building out and fees,' said Johnson.

'Until that's done I'm just making sure the building is secure.'

Mayor McClendon weighed during a phone interview.

'I don't see anything wrong with it,' said McClendon.

'It's on the side of the building. It's not on front,' said McClendon. 'I did not have anything to do with it. I did not OK it. I think they need to let people know where their door is at.'

McClendon did add, 'If it should have gone through council, then it should have gone through council.'

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