Tag Archive for: community center

The City of New Albany honored its retired fire chief and learned about the increasing popularity of the renovated community center at the May board meeting Tuesday.

Mayor Tim Kent presented a plaque and key to the city to retired fire chief Steve Coker. Coker retired this past year but Kent said the presentation had been delayed due to COVID concerns.

The mayor read from the plaque that said in part, “To Steve Coker for outstanding service and dedication to our community and thanks for making a difference.”

“In my years I’ve learned to give it (the key to the city) to people who have made a difference and you definitely have made a difference for our city,” he said.

“I miss it every day,” Coker said. “There’s some of the things I don’t miss having to deal with but, overall, the job we did, getting to work with you guys and girls – ladies, I had a great job, a great bunch of people to work with and I appreciate it.”

Community development

In community development, assistant Tracey Vainisi presented a proposed change in the community center rental agreement.

The plan would offer two rental periods, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:30 to 11 p.m. This would provide more opportunities to rent the building but people could still rent for the whole day with a discount on the combined price. The same use regulations would apply.

Community Development Director Billye Jean Stroud said, “There is a lot of interest in the community center.” She added that, so far, people are taking care of the building when they use it.

They are hoping to win a match-free $50,000 grant that would provide more improvements to the community center block, which is seeing increased use as a whole.

Vainisi said progress is being made on improving the Alabama Street park following a public meeting with those who live in the area.

A $15,000 grant plus a $10,000 match from the city will allow purchase of a large piece of climbing playground equipment and the existing equipment will be sandblasted and painted. Vainisi said she is looking into self-contained splash pads that could be installed and maintained by the city.

They stressed the importance of keeping the park a neighborhood park where users would walk rather than drive to it. They also said some special events will be planned to raise awareness of the park improvements and purpose.

Public hearing

A public hearing was held Tuesday on a zoning request by Mary Harrison to change 315 East Bankhead Street from R-2 residential to C-2 commercial.

No one was present to object and the change was recommended by the planning and zoning board so it was approved. The house will be renovated to become a retail business.


Union County Heritage Museum Director Jill Smith reported that the museum is “back in business,” although they have provided activities and programs throughout the pandemic.

Upcoming events include the Sporting Life permanent exhibit that will focus on all Union County sports-related activities. She said they should be able to see the final exhibit design next week.

A recent on-going program about once a week is Beyond the Tracks, which features area musicians and storytellers. The programs can be attended live, viewed live on Facebook or viewed later.

Coming up is an exhibit that will include 81 guitars from the collection of late attorney and musician Steve Livingston.

Departmental business

In departmental business, light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox received approval for a pay request for KAJACS Construction in the amount of $201,823.26. This is for the wastewater treatment plant under construction north of the city. Mattox said work was still on track and the facility should be ready in August or September.

Aldermen accepted a low bid of $220,550 from Siemens Energy for new voltage regulators. This will be part of a substation upgrade to improve service to the downtown area.

Finally, Mattox got approval to purchase a bucket truck for the electric department. The truck will cost $228,402 and come from Altec.

In planning and zoning, zoning administrator Eric Thomas reported that the planning and zoning board had approved a request from Younique LLC for a variance on lot size.

They approved dividing a large lot into two smaller lots, and then giving conditional permits to build duplexes on the two now-substandard lots.

In an unusual situation, aldermen approved a $1,431,785.40 bid by Hill Construction Company to make repairs and improvements to the industrial building most recently used by furniture maker Emerald Mississippi.

Now the building is being used by Fusion Incorporated, also a furniture manufacturer and a part of Southern Motion’s company.

The move was unusual because the building technically owned by Union County. The county was unable to apply for a grant to pay for the cost because the county’s audit was not up to date; however, it was the State of Mississippi’s job to perform the delinquent audit. New Albany was allowed to apply for the Community Development Block Grant for the county.

Because of cost and funding concerns, the bid had been broken into parts with the option of accepting the base bid plus any combination of other parts.

The grant is for $1.5 million so the bid was accepted pending approval from the Mississippi Development Authority.

Major repairs are needed for the roof and a truck parking area is needed with smaller other improvements on the list.

General business

In general business, Mayor Kent told aldermen that paving on Moss Hill Drive is scheduled to start May 22. City officials are also making contact with some contractors recommended for performing smaller paving and patching jobs.

Also, the final contract was signed for the replacement of all city streetlights with new LED fixtures. Although the initial cost will be high, the project will pay for itself in energy savings, longevity and reduced maintenance.

Light, gas and water manager Mattox said it will take ten to 12 weeks to get the material and a couple of months for the replacements so the project should be complete later this summer.

Before adjourning, the board met in executive session to consider utility easements. No action was reported.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 17, sponsored by First United Methodist Church, attended the board meeting as part of efforts to earn badges in communications.

NEMiss.news Community Center renovation continues

Crews were paving areas with brick and adding landscape vegetation Monday around the New Albany Community Center.

New walkway areas have been added with safer steps to the street and plaza areas are now in front of and on the west side of the building. Architect Sam Creekmore, who designed the update, said he is planning another plaza type of area on the north side of the building. The lower level of the block has had new playground and picnic equipment added with existing equipment being renovated. Some trees have been planted as well and some off-street parking is planned for the upper area.

The building will remain handicapped-accessible, of course, but the old wrought iron posts will be replaced with sold posts and some of the other incompatible features changed.

Inside, the building has new handicapped-accessible restrooms, new floor and ceiling and the former stage area was removed to provide more room. The kitchen was removed along with the stage area and a new kitchen created on what used to be the north porch of the building.

A grant from Toyota helped pay for the playground equipment. Mayor Tim Kent said the city had been putting some tourism tax money aside for a few years to pay for the community center renovation.

The community center should be ready for public use at about the first of the year.

Below are more photos of the work being done:

Interest in using the community center, or community house to many New Albanians, has been increasing and is expected to grow more thanks to work being done there.

The interior of the more than 60-year-old building has been redone with a new ceiling, floor, walls and handicapped-accessible restrooms.

The old kitchen was removed and a more suitable version was constructed on what was once the north porch. The stage at the east end was removed along with associated walls so the entire area is now an open rectangle and appears much, much larger than before. Mayor Tim Kent said it could probably seat 200 easily, once COVID rules are relaxed.

The work this week involved new exterior concrete steps and curved walkways, some of which will be bricked. Landscaping will be added as well.

In addition to the new walk and steps leading to the building, a patio is being added on the edge of the bank west of the building and overlooking the play area.

New play equipment has been installed on the lower part of the park and the large piece of equipment that was there has been renovated and painted for a new look.

Benches and picnic tables are going to be added and some trees have been planted around the perimeter.

Mayor Kent said some off-street parking probably will be added in the area north of the building where the swimming pool used to be.

A Toyota grant helped fund the playground equipment but the building and exterior work is being paid for with tourism tax money. Kent said they have been putting some money away every year for a few years for the project.

The community house should be ready for use after the first of the year and will be a good alternative to the Magnolia Room at the civic center because it is so much larger.

This plan shows the location of the various new elements.


City employees were installing new playground equipment at the Wilson Street Park Wednesday as part of an overall playground improvement project.

The installation, funded by a grant from Toyota, includes a variety of musical instruments in front of the former swimming pool location off South Central Avenue.

Renovation of the park calls for landscaping and possibly adding a small stage or performance area. The community center has been renovated as well and more landscaping is planned around the center as well.

Although the coronavirus has brought many activities to a halt, work has been continuing on renovation of New Albany’s community center. The new ceiling has been installed and base painting has been done, making the space appear much larger. The space is larger because the former kitchen and stage area have been removed. Part of the enclosed north porch area is being converted into the new kitchen, where wiring was being installed Tuesday.

Not visible in photo, Community Development assistant Tracy Vainisi has volunteered to do interior painting to help save money.

Also, some landscaping has been added to the entire park block.

A place where many older residents used to spend weekend nights and possibly danced with someone of the opposite sex for the first time is getting a new life.

Workers are in the process of renovating the city’s approximately 60-year-old community center on Wilson Street.

The center was heavily used during its first decades of life, particularly as a place for chaperoned proms, dances with live bands and school-age gatherings. The entire block was in use more because the city swimming pool was situated behind the center as well.

At one point the building suffered fire damage and was repaired, but gradually began to fall out of use as often. The area traffic was further reduced when the tennis courts on the lower part of the block were removed and the pool, which was by then losing 50,000 gallons of water a day, was closed and filled in.

Now, the building is getting a new ceiling and other interior work. The kitchen also is being renovated with more up-to-date equipment. The restrooms have already been brought up to handicapped accessible standards.

The room has a large fireplace which used to be functional but is not now. It was not determined whether the chimney would be opened back up, or something like gas logs might be installed.

Further plans call for eventually updating the exterior of the building and adding considerable landscaping. A small stage area will be constructed down the hill from the center as well, and it is hoped that grant money obtained can be used for new playground equipment.

Mayor Tim Kent said they need to provide some off-street parking, probably where the swimming pool used to be, behind the center.

Use of the center is going to be promoted more. It is considered a better space for most meetings and events such as receptions than the Magnolia Room at the civic center because of its larger area. It also is expected to be a better space in terms of affordability with the Magnolia Room used more for governmental or business events.

“The whole block has been under used for years,” Kent said, and the plan is to change that. A new perception of the area after the work is done should help, he added.


Some of the office space where a porch used to be, and the large fireplace

community house plan

New Albany aldermen approved several more projects Tuesday designed to help beautify the city in four different areas.

First was the small triangle at the intersection of Highland and Faulkner Way, just north of the Burlington-Northern Railroad. The area will be named The Glenda Conlee Memorial Triangle for Conlee, who died this past year.

She lived a few blocks up Highland and was active in city beautification efforts for many years. Plans call for Beauty Berry, Shore Juniper and colorful annuals to be planted.

A second project will be simpler but seen as needed. That is screening the city maintenance area on South Central with American Holly and Magnolia trees.

The parking area at the city tennis complex will also see improvement with oaks, red buds and elms being added to the islands in the bare parking lot. A $1,500 donation by Margaret Maxwell and Warner Creekmore will fund this project.

The fourth may have more long-term effects in helping promote use of a space that has been relatively neglected and little-used for years.

Landscaping will be added to the front of the community center as well as down the hill on the west side of the center. Oaks, crape myrtles and red buds will primarily be added but the plan calls for a gathering plaza on the lower area and improvements to the building itself.

Mayor Tim Kent said the community center will be closed next month for extensive renovation to the interior, kitchen and some to the exterior, making the approach and entrance more attractive.

Although it is not definite, it is likely that some off-street parking area will be added north of the building, approximately where the swimming pool used to be.

All of these recommendations and plan are in conjunction with the city’s sustainability committee which came out of the beautification committee.

glenda conlee triangle

The plan for the proposed Glenda Coulee Memorial Triangle

community house

The community center as it appears today