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Concerns raised over baseball complex

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / The director of the A.L. Lott Youth League Baseball program has voiced concerns that the new baseball complex in the works neglects the black community's needs and could cause issues with the accessibilty for those children. Last summer, Aiden Humphrey was one of almost 400 children who participated in the summer program.

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / The director of the A.L. Lott Youth League Baseball program has voiced concerns that the new baseball complex in the works neglects the black community’s needs and could cause issues with the accessibilty for those children. Last summer, Aiden Humphrey was one of almost 400 children who participated in the summer program.

The director of the A.L. Lott Youth League Baseball program said some members of Brookhaven’s black community don’t feel the proposed baseball complex is in the best interest of all Brookhaven’s residents.

“Our community is often misunderstood and misguided,” Roy Smith said. “For the simple fact of not being informed.”

“We were dumbfounded,” Smith said about reading in The Daily Leader that the city and county were so far along in the negotiation process to build a complex in Brookhaven off Beltline Drive.

“A majority of people in our community didn’t know about it,” he said. Public notices regarding the project were published in The Daily Leader. The newspaper has also published several stories about the project this summer.

Smith said he opposes the construction of a new complex. He also said that he is not speaking for the entire black community but representing what some in the community brought forth during a recent meeting.

“In our community we already have a park, and we don’t feel that we should be paying for a new park,” Smith said.

He said the black community needs a recreation facility, a pool and sidewalks. He said people in the community have requested these things for the past 15 years and instead of progressing things have regressed.

The A.L. Lott Sportsplex, located on South Egypt Circle, has been in use for 17 years, and Smith said there is no reason for children in the area to play elsewhere. Smith said the A.L. Lott Sportsplex was constructed so the community’s children would have better access to playing fields.

“Chances are, they’d never get the chance to go out to that baseball field,” Smith said about the almost 400 kids who will be participating in the program’s fifth year. “If their true intentions were to unite communities, they’d invite white people to come to our neighborhood instead of black people to theirs.”

Smith said he and his fellow residents just want things to improve in their community.

He said it was difficult to learn the city might agree to spend money on a new road for the new facility. He said money like that could be used on roads that children walk on to get to school every day.

“It’s wrong to spend that amount of money for something we don’t need,” Smith said. “At least 85 percent of our income is spent in Brookhaven because a lot of people can’t go elsewhere to shop. So, most of people-of-color’s tax money is spent on things that don’t benefit us.”

Smith suggested the city build a community center, which would better serve children of the black community.

“I’m not trying to start something, I’m trying to end something,” Smith said. He’s hoping he can generate a dialogue between the community and city and county administration about the project.

The county has already floated a bond to start work on the project and the county attorney, Bob Allen, said there’s nothing anyone can do to go back on that issuance and acceptance.

He said the county Board of Supervisors’ resolution for the bond was adopted on Aug. 5, 2014, and authorized a referendum if, by Sept. 2, 2014, 20 percent or 1,500 people signed a protest against the issuance of the bonds. The resolution was adopted in an open meeting and published in The Daily Leader on Aug. 12, 19 and 26. He said as of Sept. 2, 2014, there was no protest filed. So the resolution was passed to float the bond. The State Bond Attorney then validated the bond and a judge signed the order on Sept. 19, setting the matter for Oct. 6. The notice for that was published on Sept. 25, and no one objected.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said Brookhaven has not spent any money on the complex or the roads proposed leading to and from the fields. He said the city is still in negotiations with the county and the only expense the city has incurred is the retainer fee for the engineers that help advise the city.

Because of this, Fernald said that residents can still come to city board meetings and voice their concerns about the complex and whether or not the city should become more involved.

“If people are interested in sharing their concerns, they need to write in to be on the agenda,” Fernald said. In order to be on the agenda for the upcoming city board meeting on Tuesday, March 17, they need to fill out and return a form to the City Clerk’s office by noon Friday.

Eddie Brown, president of the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors, said that since city and county taxpayers have paid for the roads there – via the bonds – everybody should be in cooperation on the project. Brown said that both city and county residents will play on the fields.