Washington St. to manage new Nelson Heights

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Recreation Commission will contract with Washington Street Community Center to run programming at the new Nelson Heights Community Center.

"They have a tremendous track record in serving the community and doing what they do," said Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey of Washington Street, which is perhaps best known for its after school tutorial program.

Hailey said the Recreation Commission does not have the necessary staff to devote to the center. Two part-time people will be needed to oversee the facility, he said.

Washington Street will enter into a contract with the Recreation

Commission and submit monthly expenses for reimbursement, according to Washington Street Director Bea Jackson. County commissioners have allocated $64,000 for the center that will be used to fund operations for the next two years. The Recreation Commission will be responsible for building and yard maintenance.

"We're still trying to more or less determine the best direction for it. We pretty much know we're going to offer programs for after school enrichment," Jackson said.

The after school homework tutorial program will launch this fall and Jackson said the plan is to slowly offer other enrichment programs.

"We're excited about the challenges ahead. We look forward to serving the Nelson Heights community," Jackson said. "We certainly feel we're in a good position to deliver quality programming and we look forward to working with that community and giving them a community center they can be proud of. We intend in every way possible to include the community as a big part of it. We know it's the community that makes these things successful. We're open to all ideas and suggestions."

The building will also be available for rent for family gatherings, showers and other events.

"We're going to make sure it's not going to be used for anything it doesn't need to be used for; it's meant to be used for educational purposes and as a community room," Hailey said.

A dedication is expected to occur in August at the center, located on Laseter Street.

Hailey plans to resign his position on the Washington Street Community Center Board of Directors due to a potential conflict of interest in light of the new agreement. He is recommending that a member of the Nelson Heights community be appointed as a replacement.

The center is a SPLOST 2005 project. Total expenditures on the building thus far amount to $555,412, according to Cheryl Delk, special projects coordinator for the county. The project came in more than $1,000 under budget. SPLOST was the primary funding source at $500,000. The county also allocated $56,000 from the general fund in 2007-2008. Donations totaled $300.

The project included the purchase of 8 acres; demolition and abatement of existing structures; clearing and grading architectural design; site design; landscape design; construction of the building; and installation of the landscape and irrigation.

The $64,000 additional allocation from the county is for operations of the center.

The building has been vacant since it was completed in November. A certificate of occupancy will be issued after the site landscaping is inspected next week by the city of Covington, Delk said.