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By Brad Fisher
Citizen efforts to restore the Claude C. Brown YMCA to a public community center remain on hold after the Selma City Council again said no to purchasing the building, even for $1.
The council wants to hear from the YMCA Board before moving further on the issue.
At its June 28 meeting, the council rejected a resolution to purchase the abandoned building on Minter Street for $1 and turn it over to the Selma Housing Authority. What the resolution describes as “a group of concerned citizens augmented by a broad spectrum of concerned parties who recognize the worth and value of Brown facility” would then work with the Housing Authority to restore the building as a publicly-owned community center.
The council already voted not to take ownership of the building in April because it did not want to assume any potential risks associated with the decaying structure. Mayor James Perkins Jr. presented a new resolution to the council calling for the building to be immediately turned over to the Selma Housing Authority to overcome the council’s objections. That resolution failed by a 5-2 vote on June 28, with Michael Johnson and Atkin Jemison voting yes, and Troy Harvill, Christie Thomas, Clay Carmichael, Jannie Thomas, and Council President Warren “Billy” Young voting no. Lesia James and Samuel Randolph were absent.
After the vote, Christie Thomas asked Young to invite the YMCA Board to a future council meeting to determine if the Y is still willing to sell the property for the token fee of $1. At a finance committee meeting on June 30, Harvill pointed out that the contract between the YMCA and the city that offered the building to the city for $1 dated back to 2013 and expired in 2016.
The Brown YMCA has been abandoned for years, but the groundswell to restore the building came when Edmundite Missions, located next door to the empty Brown YMCA, proposed plans to purchase the building from the YMCA and tear it down. The space would then be used for outdoor recreation under the direction of the Edmundites.
Several community members, including one on June 28, have addressed the council since the no vote in April, urging the council to reconsider. While speakers were complimentary of services provided by Edmundite Missions, several said they wanted the council to give interested community members a chance to restore the building.
The resolution that failed on June 28 stated that the Housing Authority and residents who want to bring the building back to its former glory would try to raise $4 million for the restoration. The city would kick in half of a hotel occupancy fee as a continuing funding source. The other half would go to the YMCA of Selma-Dallas County, also known as the Walker-Johnson YMCA.
An engineering report on the Brown YMCA in 2016 said it would cost $3 million to restore the 26,000-square-foot facility and $1 million a year to operate it.
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