Residents unsure of new committee

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2012

A group of about 30 concerned residents turned out Friday night to voice their concerns over how a planning committee was formed to help improve the beloved Hardin Street Community Center in Opp.

President Penny Daniels said the committee serves to help improve the conditions of the community center, which houses a variety of community events and is in need of many repairs.

Daniels said they are currently working on securing computers for children in an after school program to be held at the center.

Additionally, the committee is working to get the building up to par and safe for those who use it.

Among the issues facing the 90-plus-year-old building are problems arising from lead paint.

Still, some residents of Opp’s District 4 were concerned about how the committee was appointed; though, they were not upset about the improvements being made to the center.

These residents are, however, upset about complaint forms the committee has asked them to submit.

The process is designed to go through the committee, then to councilwoman Mary Brundidge and then to Mayor John Bartholomew.

“We are trying to help our councilperson,” said the Rev. Willie Daniels, who serves as chaplain of the committee.

But residents like Julia Edwards said they feel they were left out of the process of choosing who would represent the District’s interests.

“I want to know when the committee was formed,” said Edwards. “We feel that we weren’t included.”

Edwards was told the committee was an idea of Bartholomew’s when he was running for mayor.

The Star-News contacted Bartholomew after the meeting, and he said the group volunteered to help formulate ways to improve the Hardin Street facilities.

Penny Daniels said the committee was for anyone to join, and committee members said that it was designed to change hands so that anyone with interests in improving the facilities can sit on the board.

Edwards asked Brundidge if she approved of the committee.

Brundidge said she knew about the committee, but she thought of it “more like a club.”

“I can see that the complaint form for going through the committee, to my hand to the mayor’s is causing problems,” she said. “I cannot take away a person’s freedom of speech. I will sign it and they can go (to the council meeting.)

Brundidge said she felt the upgrades to the center are much needed, but she doesn’t want to have a divided district.

“I’m trying to stomp out problems before they get worse,” she said.

Another resident was upset because the public wasn’t notified of the meeting.

“It should have been on the radio or something,” she said.

Penny Daniels told the crowd that the committee meets the Friday before each council meeting at 6 p.m. at the center. The Opp City Council meets the first and third Monday night at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

One question raised after the meeting was whether residents would be able to actually get on the agenda if their complaints must got through the committee. Traditionally, the cutoff to be placed on the council agenda is 5 p.m. on Friday. A 6 p.m. meeting on Friday, would not allow for those with complaints to get on the Monday council agenda.

Brundidge said her district, which runs from Hwy 52 to Hwy 331, is very diverse.

“I don’t want to leave anyone behind,” she said.

Additionally, the committee said Brundidge has the final say on what goes on.

Willie Daniels said they are working for the city to come together as one.

“I want to keep everyone satisfied,” Brundidge said. “I’m still concerned that there is only a committee is District 4.”

Resident Johnny Womack said he wanted the committee to focus on the kids.

“That’s the only reason I’m here,” he said. “They are the ones who are going to have to do this when we’re gone.”

Committee members said volunteers are needed to help paint the ailing building and help make it a better place for the children and the community.

“Our plans are to redo the classrooms in honor of the former teachers,” Daniels said. “We’ll ask the families to provide photos, and we’ll select frames for the pictures.”

Daniels said they now have a man who volunteers his time for the upkeep of the grounds.

Anyone interested in helping improve the building, is asked to attend the next meeting.

-Kendra Bolling