The council received a proposal from Talladega College President Billy C. Hawkins March 7 that requested the donation of the park and buildings surrounding the B.N. Mabra Center located on West Coosa Street.
The proposal stated, “The potential for engaging the community with Talladega College at this level is a great opportunity that will raise the morale and create better community relations. It is much needed by our college and our community. The facility will continue under its original name and will be available to the community so that they as well as our students will benefit.”
Several conflicts regarding the aforementioned properties have arisen.
According to an examination of deed records done by the law offices of Thornton, Carpenter, O’Brien, Lazenby & Lawrence, the Mattie Simmons Center still belongs to the Talladega City Board of Education and the B.N. Mabra Center belongs to the city of Talladega. The city also owns the park.
“We need to inform the school board that they still have partial ownership of the property,” said City Manager Brian Muenger. “I can’t say what the school board would do.”
There seems to be uncertainty as to whether or not board members of the city BOE are aware that they still have ownership of the property.
According to Muenger, the Talladega County Regional Center’s Head Start program has been operating out of the Simmons Center for about 20 years without a lease agreement and has been maintaining the building on their own.
Hawkins said the cost of renovating the Simmons Center and bringing it up to standard could cost the college a couple thousand dollars.
Dr. Gerald Williams, vice president of Administration and Finance, said that the funding for the renovation would come from “university funds and institutional funds.”
Hawkins and Williams said they would like to renovate the facility so that it will be better accessible to the community.
“What we’re trying to do is partner and improve the community on this part of town,” Hawkins said. “If the city were to donate the property, the college would enhance the property.”
Hawkins said the Simmons Center is in dire need of renovation, and his plan is for it to be used for intramural sports for the college as well as the community.
“The ownership part of that is not simple,” Muenger said. “You have the Mattie Simmons Center, and Head Start is in there.”
Hawkins wants to continue the Head Start program currently at the center, and have students from the college’s department of education involved.
“I think the city should turn over the property; at some point they are going to have to invest in it or tear it down,” Hawkins said. “As our college is growing, we are going to have to expand for our students.”
Hawkins and Williams agree that the park would still be open for public use and could quite possibly be the future setting for pee-wee football, soccer, and other outdoor activities.
Williams confirmed that the Mabra Center is part of the discussion.
Muenger said that it is not.
“I think it’s very important for people to know that the Mabra Center is not in this discussion,” Muenger said.
Muenger said the city’s senior nutrition program operates out of the Mabra Center, and that it is home to several other community events, making it off-limits to Talladega College’s request.
“The council has asked that we hold several public hearings for the community and we hope the college would partner with that,” Muenger said.
“If the community outreach portion goes well, there might be something where they enter a lease with the city. It’s one of these things where we want to have some legal research done into. The city’s main priority is that we have quality facilities for our residents. It’ll be very important to the council to hear what the community has to say about it and hear the community out and go from there.”
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