Rome City Commissioners are taking a look around for extra funds following a discussion about the need to spruce up public facilities.
“We need to make sure the ‘broken window syndrome’ doesn’t take over,” said Mayor Bill Collins, referencing a theory that visible signs of neglect encourage more disorder and crime.
Collins suggested three main focus points during the board’s planning retreat – Stonebridge Golf Club, Myrtle Hill Cemetery and Banty Jones Park on Crane Street. Other commissioners added Eagle Park and indoor recreation sites to the list.
Improvements are underway at the city-owned golf club, which maintains a separate budget, but Collins said some simple touch-ups to the exterior should be done “to reflect the spirit of the neighborhood where it lies.” The mausoleum area at the historic cemetery also could use some attention from city crews. he said.
Banty Jones Park sparked the most debate, and commitment, from the commissioners.
While it’s essentially a neighborhood park, Collins called it “a destination park for African American families” in the city. Re-striping the parking lot, refreshing the bathrooms and fixing the basketball court garnered broad support from the board.
The question of what to do about Eagle Park remains up in the air.
The city leased the park on Forsyth Street in 2014 to Greater Refuge Ministries, which was working to build a presence in the area. Their building, however, caught fire and the Rev. Teri Mayes has since turned the congregation’s efforts to running the North Broad Youth Center.
The five-year lease is set to expire at the end of May. Commissioner Jamie Doss suggested leaving it as passive space to avoid a new financial investment. Several commissioners indicated reluctant support for that plan; others want to reclaim it.
“It’s utilized in North Rome. It’s needed,” said Commissioner Sundai Stevenson, adding that sorority and fraternity volunteers have held clean-up days at the site.
Commissioner Wendy Davis also said the city should revitalize the 3-acre property to give a boost to the neighborhood – and push for more improvements when a director is hired for the Rome Floyd Parks and Recreation Department.
“We also should find a way to access the old Anna K. Davie gym (on Nixon Avenue). There’s been a strong outcry from the community and we shouldn’t have under-utilized spaces,” Davis said.
Commissioner Milton Slack said he and his wife, Clemontene Slack, have been working with a community group to open the gym to neighborhood youth, to give them an alternative to drugs. But efforts, so far, have stalled.
“The biggest problem is that you need to have someone in charge of it to open it, and we don’t have the money to pay for that,” Slack said. “We know what we’d like to do, but reality yields.”
Collins asked City Manager Sammy Rich and Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson to see if there’s any money that could be redirected to refurbishment. The 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package had an earmark for park improvements, he noted.
“We have a wish list,” Collins said. “Now we need to see what we can squeeze out.”