Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 18, 2013

City has grand plans for repair of reacquired rec center

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — The city's newly-reacquired recreation center is about to undergo a flurry of improvements.

In the next month or so, expect to see big changes to the property at 902 Peeples Street, officials said.

A lot of that improvement is already underway. As part of this renovation drive, the Jacksonville City Council on Monday voted to approve a $20,000 budget amendment transferring funds from the general fund administrative contingency account to pay for refurbishing.

“We have a pretty good plan that we've been thinking about for some time,” explained Mo Raissi, Jacksonville city manager. “We're going to use the resources we have, not hire anybody new, and get it done.”

The needed repairs include — among other things — painting, roof patching and regular maintenance.

It's not been that long since this property was in the care of Lon Morris College.

In 2009, the city transferred the title of an 11-acre plot of land that included the rodeo arena, recreation center, a nearby field and an animal shelter building to LMC.

At the time, Lon Morris officials, including former president Dr. Miles McCall, announced plans to build a new agriculture center and operate an equine program on the land in exchange for upgrading the rodeo equipment and allowing the city to use the facilities.

The college also pledged to provide care and maintenance, officials said. But much of this land — particular at the rec center — was neglected.

Ultimately, when LMC declared bankruptcy, the city was able to reacquire the land. But in many cases, the sheer amount of neglect was palpable.

“If you go around the building, you'll see most of the windows are broken — 20 of them,” Raissi said. “They need to be replaced as do many doors. The floors also need to be patched so the center is safe to be used.”

While the center has always needed air conditioning and various modernizations, it was well-kept by the city, Raissi said.

“We could always have done more improvements, but we keep it up pretty good,” he said. “The center was never deteriorated like this.”

The good news: As soon as the city reacquired the property, excited city employees with the parks and the street departments dove headfirst into cleanup.

“They have been moving stuff around, getting rid of the junk and taking on windows, roof repairs and painting,” Raissi said. “We're also asking the Texas Department of Corrections to send prisoners here to help paint.”

The ultimate goal is make the center safe again — the way it used to be once upon a time.

“We want the kids to be able to go out and go play,” Raissi said.