Officials dispute segregation claim

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A Brookhaven alderman alleged segregation Monday night in theplacement of a recreation programs supervisor, while departmentofficials maintained the worker was in a better position to serveclientele.

The work location of recreation department programs supervisorValerie Moore was the focus of much of the discussion between cityboard members and Brookhaven Parks Commission officials. Thedepartment’s budget request, youth worker hiring practices andother issues also were discussed.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates said Moore, who has an office inthe old railroad depot in the summer and at the A.L. Lott Complexat other times, should be at the recreation department’s centraloffice in the old National Guard armory. Bates said having Moorewith other recreation department leaders would allow her to bebetter informed about activities and grants and to represent aminority segment of the population.

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“She’s not in the right place to do it,” said Bates, whoacknowledged he was the one behind the push to relocate Moore.

However, recreation department director Terry Reid and Willie”Doc” Harrison, a member of the parks commission, said Moore was ather current location “by choice.” Saying that some older citizensdo not like to travel Brookway Boulevard to the old armory, Reidand Harrison said having Moore at the depot allows her to promoteand build department programs and to better serve residents.

“It’s a convenience for them,” Harrison said.

Reid added that he meets every day with Moore and other programsupervisors to discuss department happenings and to make decisions.Roland Wall, parks commission chairman, said Moore’s work locationwas a “dead issue” with that panel.

Moore was out of town this week and unavailable for commentTuesday morning.

In another matter, Bates requested that recreation departmentofficials try to hire more black youth workers. He also urgedofficials to develop more recreational opportunities to betterserve residents of housing complexes and apartments.

“All these are kids for the recreation department,” said Bates,mentioning a need for a swimming pool, community center and otheractivities.

Reid said department activities are open to all citizensregardless of color and touted ball program instances where mostlywhite teams played at the Lott complex and some black teams playedat the sports complex on Industrial Park Road. In some cases, hesaid youth participants are recruited but parents do not signrelease forms for children to play.

“The biggest problem we got is (lack of) parental support,” Reidsaid.

Regarding youth workers, Harrison said the department is dealingwith a different clientele these days. He said some young peopletoday don’t want to work for minimum wage, don’t want to do thekind of work involved, show up for work dressed inappropriately orwant “top dollar for doing nothing.”

“This past year, it was very hard to get kids to work,” Harrisonsaid.

Officials have estimated a community center could be built for$300,000. Reid questioned whether the board would include thatmoney if requested this year.

“I put it in last year, and that was the first thing y’all cutout,” Reid said.

Officials also discussed complaints that they receive regardingplacement of recreational facilities. Complaints come fromneighbors concerned about foot traffic and occasional lateactivities.

Alderman at large Les Bumgarner pointed out the city could havepurchased the old Eva Harris school building several years ago for$150,000. The city board at the time rejected the move followingcomplaints from neighbors.

“That was a steal, and we didn’t buy it,” Bumgarner said.

Reid said Bates had “fought” the recreation department for thelast six or seven years.

Bates denied fighting the department or holding up support forthe recreation department’s budget, but said he wanted departmentfunds “spent right.” He said there were segments of the population,both black and white, that are not being served.

“I’m not fighting it, but there’s some kids that are neglected,”Bates said.

In the new year budget, $458,404 has been allocated forrecreation department operations and $15,220 for capitalimprovements, including a new basketball court at the Lott complex.The operations amount includes funds for 3 percent employee payraises and a requested 2 percent increase to offset higher utilitycosts.

“Electricity and fuel are things that really killed us,” Reidsaid.

In other matters, Reid said the department has had a good year.Statistics presented last night showed 2,812 participants indepartment activities this year compared to 2,062 last year.

“Every program we have has grown,” said Reid, citing a 36percent increase in participation.