Hephzibah prepared to take over community center

It wasn’t on Augusta’s surplus list, but a city-run community center, walking track and ball field may soon be relinquished to Richmond County’s second-largest municipality.

Hephzibah and Augusta officials have been working on an agreement to transfer operations of the Jesse Carroll Community Center at 4977 Windsor Spring Road from the Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities Department to the city of Hephzibah.

“They’re going to go in and fix everything,” said District 8 Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who has been working on the deal for several months. “They’re willing to take over all costs and maintain it, to provide for the citizens where it hasn’t been provided for since 2007.”

The center, built in 1989, has fallen into disrepair since Augusta ended recreation programs there five years ago, he said.

The popular one-third-mile walking track at the center was built in part with Hephzibah residents’ donations, so when Hephzibah expressed an interest, Guilfoyle made sure the city took notice.

“If they’re willing to pick up the pieces and put it back together, I can’t ask for more than that,” he said.

The transfer, expected to go before the commission at an upcoming meeting, comes with strings attached.

Hephzibah can only use the facilities, which include two tennis courts and sit on more than 14 acres, for a public purpose or they revert back to Augusta, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

Hephzibah Commissioner Jody Boulineau said the municipality heard about Augusta’s interest in liquidating underused facilities and took an interest.

“We’re excited about having that facility for the youth and for our citizens,” Boulineau said. “It will continue to serve basically as an activities-type structure.”

Even a commissioner skeptical of disposing of city assets backs the deal. Commissioner Bill Lockett, who has questioned Augusta's willingness to give up other city properties, said he agreed to the transfer as long as the
facility remained in public use.

"We have given away an excessive amount of the city's assets, and we haven't gotten anything in return," Lockett said. "Doing that, I have no problem at all."

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