City wants to give up Multi-Use Facility duties

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2006

Due to time constraints of other activities and limited use bycity residents, Brookhaven Recreation Department officials aremoving to give up management of the Lincoln County Multi-UseFacility.

Department Director Terry Reid discussed the situationsurrounding the Belt Line Road facility with the mayor and aldermenduring Tuesday night’s board meeting. Reid said usage of theeight-year-old facility has grown and personnel demands are takingway from growing city recreational activities.

“It’s just taking too much time and gotten out of control,” Reidsaid.

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Reid said the Brookhaven Parks Commission voted April 13 to giveup management of the facility. The move is effective inmid-May.

When the facility was built, using city, county and state funds,the Brookhaven Recreation Department was given responsibility formanagement. Reid estimates city manpower does 90-95 percent ofmaintenance and other work while the county receives the revenueand pays all the bills.

“Anything that goes on out there has to be approved by thecounty board,” Reid said.

Reid said the building part of the facility was used 166 timesin 2005, but only 16 of those instances were by city residents. Thebuilding was closed in September and October due to HurricaneKatrina-related activities.

“The arena was never used by anybody from the city,” Reidsaid.

Mayor Bob Massengill said he and City Clerk Mike Jinks hadspoken with Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop and County AdministratorDavid Fields regarding the facility situation. The mayor said thereare some concerns on the part of everybody associated with thefacility.

“We’re trying to get something worked out,” Massengill said.

To that end, aldermen recessed last night’s meeting until Fridayat 9 a.m. to meet with supervisors regarding the facility. Reid wasalso asked to attend Friday’s meeting.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes asked Reid to prepareinformation on how many man hours his department devotes to thefacility and its operation. Reid did not have an estimate, but saidit was a “never-ending battle” to clean and prepare the facilityfrom one event to the next.

“It’s always something,” he said.

Reid also expressed concerns about the facility’s deterioratingcondition and rates for its usage.

Building rates range from $100 a day for government-relatedfunctions to $500 a day for commercial ventures, and the arena rateis $150 a day by in-county residents and $250 a day byout-of-county people. He said the rates have not been raised in thefacility’s eight-year existence.

Reid cited one recent activity in which an event raised $35,000for event promoters, but they only paid $600 for use of the arena.He also mentioned 64 incidents, 57 by county residents and seven bycity residents, last year in which no fee was collected.

The rate plan prompted some more discussion from city boardmembers.

“People need to pay for use…,” said Ward Five Alderman D.W.Maxwell. “The county and city need to at least make enough money tocover the cost.”

Reid estimated the facility generates $25,000 to $30,000 a year.The city and county each pay $20,000 a year toward facilityoperation.

Regarding options for addressing the situation, Massengill saidan interlocal agreement would allow either the city or county tobuy out the other and run the facility, or a governing board ofcity and county representatives could be set up to oversee it. Themayor said he was not advocating either option, but simply passingalong information.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron and other officials questionedthe city’s involvement in the facility if it is only being used 16times a year by city residents. Reid expressed a similarsentiment.

“Why do we even have a dog in the race?,” he said.

@Subhead:Traffic patterns


In other activity last night, aldermen approved two measures toaddress some traffic concerns on two busy city streets.

Public Works Director Steve Moreton presented a plan to moreclearly define the traffic flow at the dangerous intersection ofSouth Jackson Street and Natchez Avenue. According to a drawing,southbound traffic going to South Jackson Street Extension willhave to stop while vehicles turning to Natchez Avenue wouldnot.

“I think this will help that situation,” Massengill said.

Moreton said he plans to have the lane markings laid out duringan upcoming street striping project in the downtown area.

Also last night, aldermen agreed to take out a portion of theBrookway Boulevard median at the intersection of Highway 51.Currently, eastbound Boulevard traffic can back up due to thelimited space available for vehicles looking to turn north ontoHighway 51.

Massengill said the plan would allow room for about 12 morevehicles to wait to turn north and free up both eastbound trafficlanes. The left turn lane would be extended to about KFC, the mayorsaid.

Aldermen applauded the move as a good alternative to the currentdilemma.

“It’s a terrible situation,” Maxwell said. “It’s traffic backedup all the way to Burger King.”

Estes voiced approval of the new lane formation.

“That will certainly take some of the pressure off,” shesaid.