'Crime scene' prompts BGC debate, update

 Broken and rotted boards, cracks and splinters forced West Point Parks crews to rope off old bleachers with 'crime scene' tape.
Staff Writer

A 'crime scene' of sorts prompts a discussion about the next steps in West Point's plans to deed a four-acre park of the Boys of Girls Clubs of the Golden Triangle.

Parks Director James Crowley told Selectmen he wrapped the bleachers at Sportsman's Park on Fifth Street North in crime scene tape this week to warn park visitors and neighborhood kids about playing on old wooden bleachers which are broken, cracked, and frayed.

"It's a real hazard and we wanted to do something to let people know. Not that many people are over there, but we really are worried about kids. You know how kids are. The bleachers are in really bad shape," Crowley said.

"It would take a lot of work and some expense to get them fixed back up," he added, noting residents have expressed concerns.

Later this week, Crowley's staff plans to remove the boards and then Public Works crews will haul off the old metal frames. New portable bleachers may be put in their place.

The city plans to deed the park to the Boys and Girls Club which is trying to raise enough money to build a facility on the site. Mayor Robbie Robinson said the property has been surveyed and lawyers for the city and the Boys and Girls Club are finalizing details of a contract that would deed the property back to the city if the organization doesn't act on the property within a certain timeframe.

That timeframe still is being discussed although city leaders are leaning toward two years.

"I would like to see a timeframe. This is a park, not just a piece of vacant land and we need to know," Selectwoman Leta Turner said.

The city and BGC also must still work out who will maintain the property after the BGC takes it over and whether youth football teams and others will be able to continue using the site for practices before and after the BGC builds.

"They said they want the community to continue using the property," Robinson said in response to a question from Turner about those details.

"The board's intentions were to deed the entire four acres to the Boys and Girls Club. Once it's transferred, the liability is theirs," Selectman Ken Poole said.

"They committed to let kids continue to play there, but it's their liability," Selectman Keith McBrayer added.

The agency has buildings in Starkville and Columbus and announced last year it hoped to start operating in West Point again after a 15-year absence.

It started with a summer program at Fifth Street School this year while pushing fund raising into high gear.
In other parks and recreation news, Crowley said.

-- Most of the major work on the city's new splash pad at the Harmon Sportsplex is completed. All that remains is finishing a parking area and handicap access ramp. Pavilions to provide shade for parents and children also will be installed in the next two weeks at a cost of about $7,000.

-- Bathrooms near the Yokohama playground at Marshal Park will remain closed until the city can repair or replace about 300 feet of sewage lines clogged with roots.