Spray day schedule revised; new pool mulled

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

After much discussion Tuesday night, Brookhaven aldermen havedecided to revise the schedule for the Spray and Play Days whilealso pledging to work toward the possible creation of a communityswimming pool.

The event will now take place Mondays and Fridays in theAlexander Junior High School parking lot and will continue on thewest side of town in front of City Park on Tuesdays and Thursdaysduring the summer. Final plans for the event will be coordinatedbetween the fire, police and recreation departments.

Roy Smith, a self-proclaimed community leader for the east sideof Brookhaven, met with the board Tuesday night to discussrecreation needs for the black community.

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Smith began by denying as “hogwash” statements published in TheDAILY LEADER and attributed to him that likened the Spray and PlayDay to Civil Rights Era crowd control measures. He said Tuesday theonly reason he ever stood against Spray and Play Day is because hethought the government was trying to present it as a substitute fora community pool.

Smith said in spite of tax money the city takes in every yearand other expenditures that go out for things such as decorationsat Christmas time, the city has neglected recreation for thechildren of the east side of town.

“Over half of the children in Brookhaven are in Wards One, Two,and Three,” he said. “And we haven’t seen not one red dime of themoney that’s come in.”

Smith made the claim that the west side of town has progressedwhile the east side has regressed. He went on say the community isworse today than it was 40 years ago when he was growing up.

“I refuse to subject my children to this,” said Smith, whocalled for a community center with a swimming pool. “Why shouldthey have to do Spray and Play when they can have a facility wherethey can play all day?”

Mayor Bob Massengill explained to Smith that every year whencity representatives go to Washington, D.C., they ask for fundingfor a community center. So far, they have been turned down.

The Rev. Charles Powell, a member of the O Foundation, alsospoke about the schedule changes in the Spray and Play Days.

“We’re of the opinion that when the opposition arose, theopportunity for our children to play went away,” said Powell, whoasked for longer hours for the event.

Brookhaven Firefighter Tra Collins, who has been a regular atthe Spray and Play Days that began earlier this month, spoke to thegroup concerning the event.

“All this may upset the grown folks, but those kids get torunning around in the water for that hour, and swimming pool or noswimming pool, they have a great time,” he said. “It was a greatidea, and if you take it away, they have nothing to do.”

After community opposition was expressed to city officials, thetwice-weekly event was discontinued at the Alexander Junior HighSchool parking lot. Both days of the event have since been held infront of City Park on Hartman Street.

“When we heard that people in that area were objecting andsaying this was a remembrance of what were truly terrible times, wefelt the best thing was to discontinue it on that side of town,”said Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes. “We didn’t want to upsetanyone. We just need to know what the people want.”

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said he had begun to believemaybe the people of his ward had been overlooked.

“I don’t feel racist, but I believe we are being denied aservice,” he said. “In the past, I’ve been careful about what Isay, but I’ll say now that I believe our kids are being denied achance to learn how to swim. This puts the swimming pool back onthe front burner.”

Ward Six Alderman Buddy Allen, though, wanted it known that hefelt if the city were to discuss installing a swimming pool, itneeded to be in a central location where it could serve the entirecity.

“The people on the east side think they’re ignored, and mypeople on the west side think they’re ignored,” he said. “If wehave a pool, we should have it in a central location like CityPark. If we can agree on a central location, that would befine.”

Pool issues aside, Smith also assailed the recreation departmentfor a lack of participation by his community in little leaguebaseball.

“And we don’t even have a baseball league this year,” saidSmith, referring to the failed A.L. Lott baseball program which wasput aside this year due to lack of participation from children onthe east side.

Recreation Department Director Terry Reid and the board oftrustees were on hand to address the issues put before the board.When asked why A.L. Lott had failed, Reid explained that therecreation department had held two meetings and three months ofregistration and still had ended up without enough to make one teamin any age group.

“We had 24 kids signed up for baseball,” Reid said. “We didn’teven have a coach or an official sign up. At that point, we gotwith Dixie Youth so that the ones who wanted to play could playwith them.”

Smith told Reid he believes the reason his side of town had notturned out to play A.L. Lott baseball was that they could notafford the $35 fee to play. Reid responded that the community hadbeen informed several times that if they could not pay, all theyneeded to do was submit a note that stated that and a scholarshipwould be found for them.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates, who attended both organizationalmeetings held for the A.L. Lott program, asked Reid what theproblem was with enrollment in his ward. The alderman said hebelieves it wasn’t widely publicized enough that children couldplay for free if they could not afford the minimal fee.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said the problem was not withthe recreation department.

“The black community does not turn out for these things,” saidMaxwell. “Terry (Reid) said they’d have anything they needed – Iheard him say ‘What you need, you’ll have.’ So what do weneed?”

Bates said the children of the east side need constantactivities to keep them occupied.

“We need to keep them cycled year-round,” he said. “We need tokeep them in activities year-round to keep their interest up.”

Powell suggested working with Smith to increase participation bychildren in recreation department events and working with the cityaddress citizens’ concerns.

Massengill followed by asking the group if it were possible toget together and have a meeting with members of the community totalk about possible solutions to the myriad of disagreements.

“Let’s work out a way to get together and make some good thingshappen,” he said. “Let’s commit to these meetings to come up withsome logical, feasible solutions. Let’s come together as reasonablepeople and make something change.”

Estes, however, spoke to the group and told them she was deeplygrieved by the rift in the community.

“You’re talking about your community, but that’s my communitytoo,” she told audience members. “It breaks my heart to hear youtalk about your community as a small place when it should actuallybe the whole community we worry about in the larger sense. Not topreach, but we should be a community in the way the Lord meant forus to be.”