A pillar of the South Park community may be getting a much-needed face-lift after years of languishing in financial limbo.
The L.L. Melton Family Life Center on Sarah Street, currently operated by Jehovah Jireh — a nonprofit arm of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church — has a new benefactor who intends to help take the reigns and make the facility’s mission sustainable.
Dr. Donna M. Farrell, a psychologist, is negotiating a possible 20-year lease with the city to not only help manage the facility, but to completely revamp the old YMCA to be completely handicap accessible — opening the facility to community groups and city sports leagues for use, especially in the summer months.
“The facility, in the current state, does not have fire sprinklers ... which is certainly a top concern. The facility does not have school bus accessibility ... which will need to be remedied,” she states in a letter to City Council on May 1. “The facility will be securely fenced, with additional lighting, and a new overall security system. The facility will receive an overall facelift, and the fields will be refurbished for safety and markings.”
If all this sounds expensive, you’re right.
Councilman Mike Getz was the first to ask how much and where the money would come from, to which Farrell replied the money would come from private funding. She shied away from giving an exact dollar amount of what the improvements would cost, however.
“I don’t have approval from the city, so I really don’t have a definitive answer for you,” she said.
The “how much” problem lies in the property’s dual ownership. Part of the property is owned by the city of Beaumont, and the other half is owned by the city and Jefferson County jointly.
Beaumont Community Development Director Chris Boone said the next step is for the county to either donate its portion to the city — which he said is highly unlikely — or enter into a lease agreement with the county for their share and then lease the property to Farrell for a minimum of 20 years. This calculus could change, depending on what happens at Jefferson County Commissioners Court in the weeks to come.
The important thing, Boone said, is to keep the facility open, thereby not adding another vacant, city-owned eyesore.
Architects are currently working on assessing the dollar value of the planned improvements which will be paid for by private donations, according to Farrell.
As far as a timeline when the work might begin, Boone said it’s too soon to tell.
“We’ll be going to the county this week,” he said.
In other council news, City Council seats were left unchanged after fewer than 10,000 citizens cast votes to reelect all members of council and Mayor Becky Ames.