Howard Warner Committee
Jenkins’ community center plan gets blessing
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Newnan City Councilwoman Cynthia Jenkins' plan to turn the historic Howard Warner School into a city community center with a day-care center, gymnasium and playground, and satellite office for the Boys and Girls Club has won the approval of the committee reviewing proposals for use of the building.
On Monday, the Howard Warner Committee voted unanimously to recommend the community center plan to the Newnan City Council.
The council-appointed committee expressed some concerns about provisions for community use of the center.
Jenkins' proposal calls for demolishing the 1955 addition to the school and replacing it with a gym and playground. That leaves the 1935 building. There's approximately 5,000 square feet on the ground floor. The main floor has six large classrooms, restrooms, and an auditorium.
The entire ground floor would become an early learning day-care center for children up to age 5. It would be operated by the YMCA and there would be subsidized rates, based on family income. Jenkins estimated the center would serve 100 to 150 children.
The Boys and Girls Club would use three classrooms and the auditorium, leaving three classrooms for other use.
Coweta County would provide building management services and a recreation program.
Jenkins, who serves as mayor pro tem, said everything is preliminary. "This is a starting point. I've by no means figured out every detail of operations, because we have to still work out those things with the participants."
"How will provisions be made if there are other groups that would like to use the building?" asked Warner Committee Chairwoman Rebecca Gibson.
There are the three extra classrooms "that could be of community use," Jenkins said. "We have yet to determine" how that would all work out.
Earlier in her presentation, Jenkins mentioned the three surplus classrooms in relation to possible senior citizen and adult programs.
Committee member Leroy Hill asked if there would be space for community events, family reunions and the like. Coweta County's community centers are often used for those types of events, Hill said. The county centers also have kitchens for use by groups renting the facilities for events and gatherings.
"Will there be an area in that building that can be used for those types of gatherings?” Hill asked.
"The short answer is yes," Jenkins said. However, with the lower level a licensed day-care center, the space couldn't be used for anything else, even when the day-care center is closed.
"There's no way we're going to shut the community out of that building," Jenkins said after the meeting.
Committee member Bill Headley said he had a problem with a private day-care going into a public facility. "We don't want to get in the market of trying to promote something that would take away from the public sector," he said.
Extensive rehab will have to be done to the building, especially to outfit it as a licensed daycare center. Jenkins is estimating $2 million to $3 million, with the gym costing an additional $1.5 million.
Newnan city government currently has $1.5 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money for a community center on the east side of town. The city could also apply for a Community Development Block Grant through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The city could get up to $500,000 in grant funding. If the city and Coweta County did a joint application, the project could be eligible for up to $800,000, Jenkins said.
CDBG applications are usually due in April. "We don't have time to get a really strong application together" by then, Jenkins said. CDBGs are very competitive, and a strong application is a must, she said.
Instead, the grant would be applied for in 2015. Awards would be announced in early fall. That would mean construction couldn't start until 2016, with the building opening for business in 2017.
The application will also require a community survey.
Jenkins said the Boys and Girls Club is "ready to look at expanding their program to serve more people." The Chalk Level neighborhood and area around it is likely the area most in need of services in the entire county, she said.
Committee Member Bill Headley made the motion to recommend Jenkins' plan to the city council.
The motion was to recommend the community center plan with the specific participating entities determining the details.
"When we make this recommendation, then this committee is through — right?" asked committee member Winston Dowdell.
Not quite. First, the committee will have to present its recommendation to city council on Feb. 11.