MANSFIELD -- Newton County commissioners recently approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Mansfield regarding the Mansfield Community Center, and formed a citizens committee to keep charge of the facility.
The agreement does little to change the responsibilities of the county and city, but was needed because officials were unable to find a formal written agreement between the parties. It appears the facility has been managed under an informal agreement since the county took over ownership in the mid-'90s.
According to County Attorney Tommy Craig, the facility has been used as a voting precinct for 20 to 30 years, and Commissioner Mort Ewing said it's been used as a community center since it was built by the Lions Club 50 years ago. When the center fell into disrepair in the mid-'90s, Mansfield officials asked the county to make repairs and renovate it, and deeded the title to the county. Renovations were funded through the 1995 SPLOST.
The intergovernmental agreement, also approved by the Mansfield City Council, makes the county responsible for maintaining liability insurance on the facility, insurance, utilities, repairs and ground maintenance, as has always been the case.
The city of Mansfield will maintain a rental and meetings schedule for the facility, with the City Council allowed to meet there for free, and rental money will be disbursed to a citizens committee. The citizens committee will retain all funds from rentals for maintenance, upkeep, furnishings and cleaning. The city will receive $25 for each booking.
The committee will establish rental rates and coordinate with the city to schedule policies and procedures for use of the facility, will maintain financial records, be in charge of keeping it clean and in good order and report to the Board of Commissioners.
The 12-member committee will consist of the District 1 county commissioner, the Mansfield mayor and the chair of the Board of Elections, or their designees, who will serve as ex officio members, as well as nine residents. The residents appointed by District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing and approved by the board are: Kitty King, Betty Jo Marks, Wayne Blackwell, Mary Hays, Julius Hays, Mary Edwards,Larry Jackson, Linda Cobb and David Hays.
Five of the residents will serve four-year terms and four will serve two-year terms. The committee will reappoint or replace a member by a majority vote and after the initial terms, all members will serve four-year terms. The committee is required to meet at least twice a year.
The committee can make expenditures for maintenance, with anything over $1,500 requiring a majority vote. Ewing also stipulated in his motion that it be required to make a financial report annually to the BOC.
"This is a project I've worked on since November 2010, when Mr. Dixon Hays passed away," Ewing said, adding that Hays was treasurer for the Community Center. Another member then resigned, leaving just one member on the committee.
The city of Mansfield asked for right of first refusal if the county decides to sell the facility, but Craig said he's not sure the BOC can bind a future board to do that. Chairman Kathy Morgan suggested that the board agree to give the city a notice of intent to sell.
Commissioner Nancy Schulz noted that the county holds the keys and collects money for other community centers such as Almon and Gum Creek, and asked whether it would be better for the county to have a consistent policy.
Craig responded that, "This is not broken. It's worked for 50 years and hasn't provided controversy." He said that while he understands the desire to have an across-the-board policy, all parties involved have been happy with the arrangement.
But Commissioner J.C. Henderson said there should be a consistent policy.
"If you're going to do one district a certain way we should look at doing all of them," he said.
The board unanimously approved the intergovernmental agreement and resolution.