Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 2, 2013

Repairs begin on city's re-acquired rec center

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Electrical fixes. Plumbing work. Repairs to floors, doors and ceilings. More than 40 gallons of paint to disperse.

There is much work to be done over the next 45 days at the city's newly re-acquired recreation center, 902 Peeples Street.

The city – and, by extension, the Texas Department of Corrections trusties who are being loaned out to help with the job – certainly have their work cut out for them. (Of course, these prisoners are highly-motivated by the lure of possible pizza or hamburgers for lunch.)

On Monday, three of the trusties started painting the outside of the building – diligently applying coats to a low wall. Another trusty in a lift applied coats to the high wall of the outside upper floor in a criss-cross pattern.

This flurry of motion was made legally possible after the city reacquired the center from the now-defunct Lon Morris College bankruptcy estate.

The Jacksonville City Council subsequently approved $20,000 budget amendment transferring funds from the general fund administrative contingency account to pay for refurbishing.

The needed repairs also include patching and regular maintenance.

Will Cole, the city's director of Public Works, was at the scene Monday making sure everything went as planned.

“We're taking care of the fundamentals,” Cole explained. “We're trying to get the outside painted light grey with dark grey trim from the original tan with green trim. Inside, we will paint it white with blue accents. All in all, We'll be here until mid-May.”

Mo Raissi, Jacksonville city manager, has said the ultimate goal is make the center safe.

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

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 at the time of the original agreement, officials said..

But much of this land – particularly 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 glaring.

It's going to take some elbow grease to fix these problems, officials said.

Buck Durant, a TDC corrections officer on the scene, said hard work shouldn't be a problem for the trusties.  

This group of four prisoners – who were “chomping at the bit to get this detail” –  currently are housed at the TDC's Skyview unit in Rusk, presided over by Warden Tommy Haynes, Durrant said.

“Their motto is, 'We'll do anything for food,' ” he said.