City center struggles to keep facilities maintained

An Augusta recreation center manager took his concerns to the Augusta Commission after he says a punch-list of needed repairs was ignored for years.

 

“I understand the chain of command, and I did that,” said Stan Brown, who runs Bernie Ward Community Center at Fleming Park, by Butler High School. “Four or five years, and back.”

Brown told commissioners Tuesday that the center’s last safety audit, performed by city staff several years ago, revealed broken tile, a leaking drain pipe, moisture problems, inoperable lights, broken fire extinguisher cabinets and a leaking toilet. He also mentioned a newly-installed floor that was too slippery and a more recent problem with rodents.

DOCUMENT: Bernie Ward Center Safety Assessment (.pdf)

A copy of the audit, dated Nov. 19, 2014, listed all those items and more. It is unclear whether any have since been addressed.

On Wednesday, the center hosted a Valentine’s Day gathering of Serenity Behavioral Health developmentally disabled people while Brown awaited the inspection promised by City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson the day before.

Serenity program manager Valerie Ross said the organization is grateful for use of Augusta’s centers, which it routinely books for events, and city workers who volunteer with the organization.

She hadn’t observed any safety hazards Wednesday but agreed the center needs to be in safe condition.

DOCUMENT: Bernie Ward Center Work Order List (.pdf)

Still, Brown and center staff awaited the arrival of the inspector. Commissioner Dennis Williams, who represents the area, said the inspector turned up around 1:30 p.m.

“They had to fit it into their schedule,” Williams said. “It was a decision that was made yesterday.”

Williams said the inspection revealed a handful of needed repairs, but “nothing so unsafe to close the building.”

City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson and Parks and Recreation Director Glenn Parker on Wednesday denied through a spokesman having knowledge of the list of repairs.

“We understood that, as of close of business Tuesday, there was only one work order that had not been completed at the center,” they said through a spokesman. “Some of the things mentioned during Tuesday’s meeting had not been reported into our system.”

Commissioners expressed surprise that the city’s recreation director would claim no knowledge of the needed repairs.

“Glenn Parker had to know about this stuff. If he didn’t know, why didn’t he come forward Tuesday?” Commissioner Marion Williams said.

When Brown made the presentation Tuesday, Parker did not address the item.

In a Feb. 6 email from Brown to Parker and Jackson, obtained by The Chronicle, Brown questioned why some centers – such as Blythe and McBean – have a dedicated maintenance worker, while others, located in black neighborhoods, must share one.

“The workload there is about a fifth of what a community center with a gym has to do,” Brown said.

Commissioner Ben Hasan said an upcoming $1 million sales tax project at Fleming Park, including ball field repairs, needed to wait until the center itself is addressed.

“I can’t see us doing enhancements on that field without considering improvements that need to be done to the facility first,” Hasan said.

Asked about the list Tuesday, Jackson said when it was compiled, “unfortunately at that time there were no funds set aside for improvements to do that,” but that since then the commission included $1 million in sales taxes for capital improvements at the park.

Williams asked why other centers were in better shape if no funds had been available.

 

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