The city of Yazoo City has until the end of the month to bring two local parks up to code before action is taken by the state.
Federal funds administered by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks were matched by the city in a grant program several years ago. Recently, the tennis courts at Sam Nicholas Field and the Webster Street park were deemed not in compliance with that grant program.
The city of Yazoo City was given notice of its violation in August of 2010. However, no action was ever taken for the city to remain in compliance with the grant program.
Mayor Diane Delaware was recently contacted about the issue and brought it before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during its Monday meeting.
“We were given notice on Aug. 2, 2010 to get into compliance,” she said, in reference to a letter she received. “They have indicated that unless we get into compliance by June, some action will be taken.”
Alderman Aubry Brent Jr. told The Herald that signage is required at the two local parks.
“We need to put a sign from the MDWFP,” he said. “They contributed federal dollars to us for parks and recreation, and they need to be acknowledged as participants in helping out.”
The grant program also requires the tennis courts near Sam Nicholas Field be used for that purpose.
“There needs to be tennis nets,” Brent said. “But we don’t use them as tennis courts anymore.”
The tennis courts near the Sam Nicholas Field are adjacent to the New Zion Baptist Church Annex on Twelfth Street. The tennis courts no longer exist, and the church uses the lot for parking.
However, the city still owns the property that is currently being used as a church parking lot.
“We own those properties by New Zion church and Webster Street park,” Delaware said. “Those are our properties, We have not sold them to anyone.”
Alderman Dr. Jack Varner agrees that the church only purchased the old armory building, not the tennis court lot.
Brent said he was under the impression that the church owned the former tennis courts, not the city.
“I thought the tennis courts went along with the (auditorium) because they are connected,” Brent said. “Anytime something is connected, that is part of the real estate.”
Brent said he requested that board attorney Sarah O-Reilly-Evans research the deeds.
Varner said the church needs to be notified to not use the courts as a parking lot anymore.
“Bottom line, no matter how much we talk here, we have to recognize that we have a situation,” Delaware said. “We can’t continue on like this.”
Varner said it’s time to address the issues within the parks and recreation commission.
“How long are going to put up with a non-functional recreation depart
Varner said the issue has been in front of the city council before. With the summer season and its programs on the way, something needs to be done, he said.
“How much longer are we going to continue wasting our money for our parks to look (like they do) and for our programs to be run without county money matching us,” Varner asked. “We are going to hell in a basket.”
Delaware said the board needs to hold a workshop to determine how many of the 11 parks does the city really need.
“How many parks do we require,” she asked. “At some point, you must cut to the chase and stop talking.”
Alderman Ron Johnson said it’s not about the number of parks...it’s management.
“The problem is the management of the parks,” Johnson said. “We need all the parks.”
“A city of 11,000 (people) needs 11 parks?” Delaware asked. “We don’t even use some of these parks.”
“They use all the parks,” Johnson replied. “It’s not the parks that need closing. It’s the management.”
Delaware said she wasn’t suggesting closing any parks. She said she simply wants to take a closer look at the situation.
O’Reilly-Evans said she will seek the opinion of the Attorney General about the city assuming leadership in its own parks and recreation department.
In a previous meeting Parks Director Henry Campbell told the board around 1,200 youth had signed up for local youth baseball. Dixie Youth officials said the number is significantly lower, however.
They estimated that combining all of the local boys and girls programs would probably equal less than half of that number.