City board won’t lease gym

Published 8:25 am Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Further discussion of a possible arrangement between the South Panola School District and the City of Batesville to provide a place for youth activities outside the scope of programs offered by the Parks and Recreation Department were stopped abruptly at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

Representatives from Patton Lane Park had been told two weeks earlier at a meeting concerning the leasing of the Batesville Intermediate School gym to return last week once the board’s attorney had an opportunity to review a proposed lease that would give the city use of the gym at no charge.

Soon after Tuesday’s meeting opened, though, Alderman Bill Duggar made a motion that effectively stopped all discussions of a lease.

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“Since we met I’ve learned some things about that gym the last time we had our name on a lease and I don’t want us to get into that again,” Duggar said. His motion passed 5-0 with little discussion, frustrating the contingent wanting use of the gym.

School officials won’t lease the gym to the group, who wants to provide children with opportunities for activities the city doesn’t sponsor, including youth basketball, karate, dance, cheerleading, and other youth sports and programs. Instead, the district proposed to lease the gym to the city with the stipulation that all activities at the site be overseen by the City of Batesville with a city employee present each time the building was opened.

The city and school district had a similar lease agreement several years ago, but it was not renewed when the Parks and Recreation Dept. told aldermen they were unable to properly monitor activities there, and that adult basketball leagues were causing problems.

A school teacher provided aldermen with a letter last week detailing problems for students and staff when outside activities were held at the gym in the past. It was that letter that Duggar later said had a bearing on his motion to drop discussion of the matter.

Shalonda Ford, who represented the group earlier this month and again last week, told aldermen it was unfair to not consider the plans she wished to present. She said the earlier meeting convinced her that aldermen were willing to lease the gym, but blamed a newspaper story about the previous lease problems on the aldermen’s change of heart.

Aldermen again tried to explain to Ford their position, namely that they support every youth activity she proposes and are willing to include her group in next year’s budget for charitable funding, but they are not willing to bring the program under the city’s umbrella.

Alderman again explained the Parks and Recreations role in providing youth activities. They suggested that additional programs could be added under Parks and Rec, but any adjustments would be made by the city and not private groups.

In other parks news from the meeting, the board voted to advertise for bids to resurface the six tennis courts at Trussell Park and obtain quotes for new LED lighting for the tennis area.
Alderman Bobby Walton asked that quotes also be sought for lighting improvements at Patton Lane Park.