BOC: Rental pol­icy at Nel­son Heights Com­mu­nity Cen­ter should change

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

County com­mis­sion­ers agreed Mon­day night that ex­tra steps need to be taken when the Nel­son Heights Com­mu­nity Cen­ter is rented out to en­sure there’s no re­peat of the May 30 “Bounce Dat Ass Part II” party that ended up with gun shots re­port­edly be­ing fired in the air by a car pass­ing by the cen­ter.

Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz said the party was the “ele­phant in the room,” and she thought the $40,000 ap­pro­pri­a­tion the cen­ter was set to re­ceive next budget year from the county should be con­tin­gent upon the cen­ter’s board of di­rec­tors pre­sent­ing com­mis­sion­ers with a plan to pre­vent fu­ture is­sues.

How­ever, while her fel­low com­mis­sion­ers agreed changes needed to be made, none of them sup­ported mak­ing the cen­ter’s fund­ing con­tin­gent, and com­mis­sion­ers

also didn’t agree that other com­mu­nity cen­ters around the county should have to change their poli­cies.

“I’m not in sup­port of with­draw­ing funds (be­cause) of one night of ac­tiv­ity,” Chair­man Keith El­lis said.

Sev­eral pol­icy changes were sug­gested, in­clud­ing:

Chair­man Keith El­lis sug­gested plac­ing a cur­few on the build­ing, not al­low­ing it to be rented out af­ter 10 p.m., or even ear­lier if the Board de­sired

Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son, who is the chair­man of the cen­ter’s board, said he had al­ready dis­cussed the mat­ter with Sher­iff Ezell Brown and their idea was to re­quire any­body rent­ing the cen­ter – with the ex­cep­tion of a church func­tion – to pay to have a sher­iff’s deputy on duty dur­ing the event

Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Maddox rec­om­mended pos­si­bly in­creas­ing the re­quire­ments that people have to meet in or­der to rent out the cen­ter. Us­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence as a land­lord as a guide, Maddox said when­ever a ten­ant trashed a rental home, Maddox would go back and try to see if there was any­thing in the ten­ant’s his­tory that might have been a red flag. He said some ways to keep out bad ten­ants would be re­quir­ing things like higher de­posits or higher credit scores.

Hen­der­son pre­vi­ously told The News no laws were bro­ken on cen­ter property, and he re­it­er­ated that Mon­day night.

“First of all, we should see if any laws were bro­ken, or are we mak­ing a dif­fer­ence with Nel­son Heights be­cause it’s an elec­tion year?” said Hen­der­son, re­fer­ring to the fact he’s in a runoff elec­tion against chal­lenger Sonya Hunte. “Some­times dur­ing elec­tion time, people who don’t like par­tic­u­lar can­di­dates bring up some­thing with no merit.”

The May 30 party got wide­spread at­ten­tion of the gun shots fired and so­cial me­dia posts tied to a lo­cal gang; how­ever, Hen­der­son said some of the things posted on Face­book about the party weren’t ac­cu­rate.

A Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment re­port said it took about two hours for crowds to dis­perse from the sur­round­ing streets, but Hen­der­son said Mon­day that the people im­me­di­ately around the cen­ter came back into the build­ing when in­structed to do so. He said the is­sues were when people left for the night, but he said he didn’t think the cen­ter and com­mu­nity should be pun­ished as a re­sult.

The Nel­son Heights Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, lo­cated at the in­ter­sec­tion of Puck­ett and Laseter streets, was built us­ing 2005 SPLOST funds, and of­fi­cially opened in late 2010. It was orig­i­nally run by the Wash­ing­ton Street Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and the New­ton County Re­cre­ation Com­mis­sion, but this past year it was run by a new Board of Di­rec­tors with Hen­der­son serv­ing as chair.

The cen­ter is mainly used for af­ter-school tu­tor­ing and pro­gram­ming, but also is fre­quently rented out for com­mu­nity events, in­clud­ing a sum­mer camp go­ing on now.

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