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Breaking ground
Community center expected to open in August

COVINGTON - The wind chill pushed the temperature down near the freezing mark, but District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson said his heart was warmed by the show of support by officials and residents who braved the cold to turn out for the groundbreaking of the Nelson Heights Community Center.

The center, to be located at the corner of Laseter and Puckett streets, is expected to open by August.

The project was spearheaded by Henderson, who said he hopes the building will serve as a community gathering spot, particularly for schoolchildren and seniors.

Henderson initially proposed the center in 2005, when commissioners were discussing projects that could be funded under a new special purpose local option sales tax.

"It really has warmed my heart," to see those plans coming to fruition, he said.

Henderson thanked the voters who approved the SPLOST, along with his fellow commissioners, city of Covington officials and members of the Nelson Heights Community Center Board, for their work on the project.

The center has long been needed in the Nelson Heights community, he said.

"It's something for a person who is elected to make promises, but it's another thing to hear it and do something. We all can talk, but it's a whole different thing to walk the walk," Henderson said.

BOC Chairman Aaron Varner said the center will be "a good addition, not only for one district, but for the county. People don't realize what's good for one district is going to be good for the county, and what's good for the county is good for all the districts," he said.

The center will include a meeting room for 75 to 100 people, a catering kitchen, restrooms, a 200-square-foot office and storage space.

The county has earmarked $500,000 in SPLOST funds for the building and 8-acre tract.

The city of Covington has donated .48 acres and $21,000 worth of in-kind services to the project

The property donated by the city could in the future be used for a pavilion and basketball court, which are not included in the current budget, according to Cheryl Delk, special projects coordinator for Newton County.

The city also agreed to give $21,000 in in-kind services related to the extension of a waterline, installation of a water meter vault, a water meter and fire hydrant, including the cost of labor and materials.

Eventually, Henderson said he would like to have ballfields and a tot-lot with play equipment and picnic tables at the site. Those associated costs are also not included in the current budget. He is also looking into programming options, he said.

Henderson said he would like to see the site used for recreational purposes and an after school program, similar to what is offered at Washington Street Community Center on School Street, also in District 4.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.