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Board agrees to takeover
Recreation Commission will run Nelson Heights

COVINGTON - The Newton County Recreation Commission has agreed to take over operations of the new Nelson Heights Community Center.

The recreation board met earlier this week and agreed to make the recommendation to the Board of Commissioners at its Tuesday meeting.

"There are a couple of stipulations and concerns that we've got that will be brought out that night," said Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey.

One of those concerns is the expense of operating the facility. Hailey said the recreation board is seeking clarification on whether there has been money appropriated out of the county's general fund. If that's the case, funding won't be an immediate issue, he said.

He said the board is proposing hiring someone to run the facility, which could possibly be used for an afterschool program and would be rented out to the community for other events. Rental fees would likely help pay for some of the operations costs, Hailey said.

"Anybody that wants to do a program out there would make a proposal about what they want to do," he said.

Commissioners agreed earlier this month to have the Recreation Commission board decide if it could take on the project and identify funding sources for maintenance and operations of the facility, located on Laseter Street.

The decision came after several weeks of disagreement between board members over how the building should be used.

Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who represents District 4, where the center is located, has said he intended for the facility to be similar to Washington Street Community Center, with programs and sports activities for children, a computer lab for community use and a paid staff. Henderson said a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization was formed in December to run the center.

Henderson has requested the board approve payment of expenditures for the center totaling $55,240 - money that he said had already been appropriated in the fiscal year 2009 budget.

The expenditures include $37,000 for a director's salary and benefits, $6,240 for a part-time employee's salary, $7,000 for utilities, $2,000 for food and snacks, and $2,500 for a petty cash fund.

But Chairman Kathy Morgan said there is no record of commissioners ever approving the use of the building or formation of the 501(c)3.

Morgan said the board has three options: To rent out the facility through the commissioner's office; turn it over to the Recreation Commission; or turn it over to the 501(c)3.

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