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Local NAACP hints at lawsuit amid rec center contention

By Justin Boron

jboron@news-daily.com

Members of the Clayton County branch of the NAACP hinted Tuesday night at possible legal action against the Board of Commissioners if it fails to build all six of the recreation centers outlined in a handbook for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax initiative.

At a news conference held outside the county administration building, the group also pointed out that the county commission missed a 90-day deadline given by Chairman Eldrin Bell to break ground on the first recreation center in Riverdale.

"Ninety days have come and gone a few times," said Bobby Simmons, the economic development director of the Clayton County NAACP. "They will force us to look at our legal avenues. This is something that we're not taking lightly."

During the County Commission meeting held after the press conference, commissioners did not seem to waiver.

Attention to the recreation centers, which were proposed to be built with $40 million of a special sales tax, has not wavered since Bell suggested in February the county may not be able to build all six.

The announcement catalyzed community concern amid an abrupt rise in youth violence.

Dexter Matthews, the president of the local NAACP, proposed that the county commission build three centers this year and three centers next year, even though he says he was promised in 2003 that two centers would be completed in SPLOST's first year.

While Bell didn't budge on his plan to build the recreation centers gradually, he said the centers were the county's "No. 1 priority."

He also said in the meantime, the county would be working with the school system to use its facilities for recreation services.

Explaining why the 90-day deadline was missed, Bell said the property sale for the recreation center in the north part of the county fell through.

Matthews also criticized the county's recent use of SPLOST funds to buy $365,000 worth of road maintenance equipment.

Bell maintained that the purchase was legal.

County Commissioner Wole Ralph advocated once again allocating all of the money for six recreation centers.

"It's abundantly clear that each and every meeting citizens come before the board and ask us to maintain our commitment to the centers," he said.