The L.L. Melton Family Life Center, formerly the L.L. Melton YMCA, is one step closer to a complete retrofit that would keep the center open after City Council members approved a lease agreement with benefactor Dr. Donna Farrell on Tuesday, July 9.
The terms of the 20-year lease call for a $1,000 a month payment to the city adjusted annually based on inflation.
A pillar of the Pear Orchard and South Park communities, L.L. Melton was taken over in 2010 by Jehovah Jireh, a nonprofit arm of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, with Cheryll Guidry at the helm after the YMCA abandoned its stake in the facility.
Guidry helped keep the center afloat until Jan 8., when she sent a letter to council members pleading for help in covering the center’s $3,000 monthly utility bill.
“The plan when we got the doors back open wasn’t for me to do it. I was just volunteering when it was the Y, so I knew a lot of the history and what worked and didn’t work, so I naturally slid right in,” Guidry said. “But that wasn’t the plan all along. I just saw the need and stepped up.”
Now, with the help of Dr. Farrell, who advocates for the assimilation of students with a variety of developmental disorders into local school systems, the center is in for a facelift, including ADA compliance for people with disabilities, leveling and striping of sports fields and tutoring spaces for job seekers.
The facility might also fix the aging and decrepit pool, but a dollar figure of what all the improvements would cost was not readily available.
“I’m just really excited to get started and I think that answer will come as we get started when we see what has to happen to open it up as soon as possible,” Farrell said Tuesday.
The licensed psychologist sidestepped questions not only as to the cost of improving the facility, but how long the improvements would take, hinting she hoped to have the facility open in time for the coming school year, but that negotiations were still ongoing.
“Any negotiation is a delicate process,” she said.
Beaumont Community Development Director Chris Boone said an exact dollar amount depends on what Farrell and city and county officials decide to fix.
“It depends on what all has to be done,” Boone said.
What will almost certainly be done first is a security fence around the perimeter and the ADA/handicap compliance throughout the facility, but Boone said negotiations are still ongoing about how to save Melton’s outdoor pool.
“I don’t want to say the pool is going to go because I know that can be a point of contention, but I certainly think it’s going to be cost prohibitive anytime soon,” Boone said.
The 20-year lease approved by the city Tuesday affects only the city-owned northernmost portion of the property, however. In order to start work and reopen the facility to the community, Farrell will have to secure a lease with Jefferson County for the southern half of the property, who jointly owns the nine-acre property with the city.
“The approval and subsequent addendum to the lease, from the county, is still pending,” Farrell said in a letter to the city.
If Farrell is able to make the plan work, Boone said the city will be better for it.
“The big picture is that the center, through the Y, created recreational opportunities to that community for years and years,” Boone said. “A few years ago, luckily, Jehovah Jireh stepped in, Cheryll Guidry stepped in and kept it open. The city put a little money into it to try and keep it open and keep it running. But we were faced with totally shutting down. That’s obviously not good for anyone.”