Residents near Westside Park are seeking the community's help to raise $50,000 for improvements to the park and the swimming pool located in the park.

Resident Randy Gill made a pitch last Tuesday to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen regarding a proposal for repairs and improvements to the park.

According to the proposal, a copy of which was obtained by The Neshoba Democrat, several separate requests are being made with respect to the park. Those proposals are: To hire/promote an assistant park director to oversee Westside Park and the former Booker T. Washington school facility; to restore little league baseball and softball for area children and young adults, to make repairs to the pool, to reopen the gym at Booker T. Washington for recreation during the summer, to provide for a private funding component, and for any other assistance including possible county funding or in-kind assistance for the pool work.

Gill said he had already discussed the matter briefly with the county supervisors and Mayor James A. Young and was presenting his proposal to the city for the aldermen's review and consideration. 

"We are making a request for the city to help us open Westside Park and Booker T. park," Gill said. "The mayor has asked us to get folks in the community involved. We have established a fundraising committee, our goal is to raise $50,000 for the project."

During the meeting, Ward 3 Alderman Ronnie Jenkins asked Gill how much was needed to get Westside Park fully operational. While Gill didn't provide an exact figure, he did say that the $50,000 would get them well on their way to their goals.

"What is the $50,000 going to be used for?" Ward 2 Alderman Jim Fulton asked, to which Gill responded that the money would be used for the "overall effort" outlined in the proposal he provided to the aldermen.

Young suggested that the $50,000 go towards renovation and repair of the existing pool. 

No action was taken during the meeting regarding Gill's proposal.

After the meeting, Young said that the issue of renovating Westside Park has been ongoing for some time. He said that prior to him becoming the mayor there was a park bond issue that was passed by the community and that the city and county now have one unified park system under the control of the Philadelphia-Neshoba County Parks Commission. 

He said there had been some previous discussion regarding developing two separate park systems, but he clearly noted that “those days are gone.”

Young said that the community surrounding Westside Park has been concerned about the status of the pool at the park for some time, but he noted that simple patches will not work on the pool.

“I am not for putting money in that structure as it currently is,” he said. “The pool is not certified and it would take a lot to get it where it is even operational.”

Young said that he suggested to community members near Westside the figure of $50,000 to raise for the pool. He said it would be his intention that those funds would go directly to repairing the pool structure itself. 

Young said that the city also would not work with any entity that wasn’t formally established. He said he wasn’t sure which group would be responsible for the fundraising, but that he would expect that any group would be established as a 501 (c) 3 organization and would have parameters in place to ensure that money was properly being documented and accounted for. 

Young said that many of the requests on the proposal submitted by Gill were already underway.

For instance, recently the city agreed to repair the roof at the old Booker T. Washington school gym after discussions with community members over the need to repair the roof.

In that case, the city is working closely with the Community in Action organization, which provided a $10,000 check to go towards gym renovation.

Reopening the gym was one of the named factors on the proposal.

With respect to hiring an assistant park director or restoring the little league baseball and softball fields, also points on the proposal, Young said that it is not his or the city’s role to organize activities for the community. He said that the city will work with the parks commission in whatever the parks commission needs to bring the proposal to fruition, but that he would leave it to the park commission board and Park Administrator Cody Bryan to make decisions about staffing or the state of area ball fields.

Gill could not be reached for comment after the meeting.