After years of asking for help, Crawford”s ailing community center is in line for an upgrade.
The Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority Board voted Tuesday to reroute $100,000 intended to buy land for soccer fields at Ola J. Pickett Park in Caledonia to Crawford.
CLRA Director Roger Short explained the money became available when the Caledonia Board of Aldermen unexpectedly decided during its December meeting to buy the land for the park on its own, rather than accept the assistance.
“The only explanation I have (is), (District 1) Supervisor Harry Sanders talked to (the Caledonia Board of Aldermen) and they said they didn”t want the CLRA telling them how to run their park,” Short told the CLRA board.
He said Caledonia Mayor George Gerhart asked that the money be used for the “future development of the park,” but state law prohibits the CLRA from making donations to municipalities. It must own the facilities it operates, at least partially, which would have been the case in Caledonia.
Now Caledonia”s voluntary loss appears to be Crawford”s gain. Short recommended rerouting the $100,000 to build a 3,200-square-feet addition to the gym at the Crawford Community Center, which is one of the best-kept CLRA gyms. And following the completion of the new wing, Short said the 50-year-old school currently being used as a senior day center and housing the Lowndes County School District”s summer lunch program will be demolished.
“We know we don”t need to try to fix that old school up. The school building needs to go,” he said.
Input will be sought from Crawford citizens and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, but the preliminary plan for the addition includes restrooms, a kitchenette and two break-out rooms.
Short also updated the board on plans by local legislators to obtain access to land currently owned by Mississippi University for Women to build the Townsend Community Center. Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, and Rep. Esther Harrison, D-Columbus, will spearhead the bill to be presented to the state Legislature. The deal could involve a lease for the land, which would require approval from the state College Board, or the CLRA may purchase the land.
The sale was proposed during last year”s legislative session but never made it out of committee.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.