The city council awarded a $1 million contract to build a prefabricated recreation center to accommodate a variety of indoor sports at Buckley Park.
Council members awarded the $1,025,000 contract to Aries Building Systems of Troy, Tex. to deliver and install the multi-purpose building funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
Councilman Michael Jackson, who represents the 1st Ward where the park is located, opposed the pre-fabricated recreation center. He has previously said the pre-fab building will not fit in in a neighborhood made up of colonial homes.
“This facility doesn’t do us service,” said Jackson. He has argued the facility is not big enough to support the needs of the community. He also said it’s not a state-of-the-art facility. He called spending money on this project a “misappropriation” of funds.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and law director Domenick Stampone found fault with the councilman’s use of the word “misappropriation” which has a legal meaning and suggests embezzlement of funds.
Stampone said the usage of the word is “legally inappropriate.”
Torres called the word selection “poor judgment” on part of Jackson. “I take direct offense at the word ‘misappropriation,’” said the mayor. The 1st Ward councilman substituted his initial word with “misuse” of funds. He compared giving this facility to the community as giving someone – without a car — a car with three wheels.
“This is a disservice to the community,” said Jackson. He has previously suggested using the funds to make improvements to the long neglected park in the corner of Redwood and Chamberlain Avenues.
Torres said the times he has passed by the park he did not see anyone utilizing the open space there. “Nobody at all,” he said. “I believe any use will enhance the recreation department.” He pointed out the multi-purpose center is supported by recreation coordinator Benjie Wimberly.
Jackson and Torres clashed over the multi-purpose center even after the measure was approved in a 7-1 vote. Jackson voted against the measure.
Torres said time will demonstrate the proposed center’s benefit to the community.