City hands over Kings center to church|[07/11/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008

Pleased with the outcome of the public-private partnership begun two years ago with Triumph Missionary Baptist Church, Vicksburg officials sealed the deal Thursday by handing over the deed to the Kings Community Center.

“I’m impressed with what you’ve done,” North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said. “I appreciate what you’ve done for that community.”

In May 2006, city officials transferred the former elementary school on North Washington Street to the church on a two-year lease at $1 a year. The deal gave the city an option to deed the center to the church after two years based on progress gauged at the center over the years.

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“It was an experiment to start, but it’s something we believe in and we hope it will continue to work in the community,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, acting as mayor pro-tem in the absence of Mayor Laurence Leyens.

Triumph Ministries, a nonprofit entity of the church on Pittman Road near the center, has used the space to offer after-school tutoring, athletics, GED and adult education programs, computer training, a food kitchen and health services. Rev. Dexter Jones, pastor of Triumph, said the church will continue its efforts.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to extend our services to the community,” he said. “And, with this opportunity, we have excelled.”

The Kings Center, one of two community centers in Vicksburg, was once used as a county elementary school before city and county school districts merged in 1987, followed by a city annexation in 1990. After acting as a Head Start Center, the city began spending millions remodeling, expanding and staffing the one-story building and gymnasium. In 2005, the center’s budget was cut from $258,200 to $149,580, reflecting a decision to cut the day school program and the now-defunct Department of Human Services. The Vicksburg Warren School District’s increased role in discipline knocked out the need for the department, Leyens has said.

Before the private takeover, the center, along with the Jackson Street Community Center, was under the Parks and Recreation umbrella. The center is now run by church staff, church members, volunteers and not city employees.

Having Triumph run the Kings center was a decision based on the current administration’s desire to offer more services without being restricted by limited government resources.

“It took a long time to put it all together, but it works,” Beauman said.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas told the board that the special warranty deed has a reverter clause.

“If they stop using it as a community service center, the city can take it back,” she said.

City to apply for grant for emergency center

The city board Thursday authorized Marcia Weaver to prepare and submit an application to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the 2008 Emergency Operations Center Grant Program. If approved, the city could receive up to $1 million – with a 75/25 match – in funds to build or renovate an emergency operations center.

South Ward Alderman Beauman said, while the city might not have a chance of getting the funds, the city is looking at ways to have an emergency preparedness center that would be operable during a disaster.

“It might be a shot in the dark, but we have just as good of a chance as anyone,” Weaver said in the meeting.

A grant of $2,800, for which the city will provide a 50/50 match, will fund big-band music workshops for youth and the elderly, as well as an evening concert for the public. The city has contracted with the Capital City Stage Band, a band that performs music from the big-band era, and the workshop and concert will be at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. The concert will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 14, Weaver said. The grant is a Mississippi Arts Commission Arts Based Community Development Project Grant, which the city has received each year since 1990. Past awards have gone to fund projects at the Riverfront Murals and programs at the Vicksburg Senior Center, Weaver said.

On the agendaIn a Thursday meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the board:Recognized Kelly McCaffrey in the inspection and planning department for five years of service.Presented Dot Griffin as the Vicksburg Senior Center’s Senior of the Month.Swore into office and appointed Markeetia Braxton, Kyle Christian and Michael Smith as police officers with the Vicksburg Police Department.Heard a report of activities going on at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center from director Annette Kirklin.Discussed 12 dilapidated buildings and overgrown lot codes and authorized Wayne Scott, assistant director of buildings and inspections, to proceed to cut, clean and demolish properties.Adopted order for partial payment of ad valorem taxes on real, personal and mobile home property, to prepare for the city’s upcoming budget hearings.Adopted an order to set a hearing for July 25 for protest on the adoption of the 2007-08 Motor Vehicle Assessment Schedule.Adopted a resolution authorizing the mayor pro-tem and aldermen to establish a business promotion area to levy a special assessment on commercial real property within the business area of the city for the purpose of promoting businesses for Main Street.Authorized the city clerk to publish a notice and set a public hearing for Aug. 18 to establish a downtown taxing district.Approved a request from the police department to spend $3,892.74 from the program’s account to pay for scheduled activities for the remainder of this year.Approved a transfer of $3,500 from the supplies category to the service category in the recreation department to purchase promotional materials.In an executive session, discussed a longevity in the inspections and planning department, a pay adjustment in the fire department, an employment in parks and recreation and a transfer in the fire department.The board will meet again at 10 a.m. July 21.