Bibb County officials unveiled plans Monday that make good on the promise of better facilities at the Bloomfield Park community center while also giving the county more bang for its sales tax bucks.
Commission Chairman Sam Hart and Parks & Recreation Director Dale Doc Dougherty said the county has purchased the former Gilead Baptist Church and Gilead Christian Academy property off Rocky Creek Road for $650,000, paid for with special purpose local option sales tax money.
Among the existing buildings on the 20 acres are classrooms, the former church sanctuary, gymnasium, and baseball and football fields.
The Gilead property will serve as the new home for Bloomfield Park, they said.
Hart said plans to demolish the existing center are on hold while the county figures out a plan for the entire property. Regardless of what happens to the current center, Bloomfields pool and ballfields will remain, Hart said.
(The new property) gives us another entrance to Bloomfield, which makes it feel like its a bigger community center, he said.
About $2 million in SPLOST money had been set aside for improvements at Bloomfield Park, but even with the purchase price and needed improvements to the Gilead buildings such as roof repairs, Dougherty said the countys bill would still be less than $2 million.
Dougherty said hes excited about what the extra space will mean for programming at the center. In addition to the sports programs and summer camps Bloomfield currently runs, there will be opportunities to add educational programs in the arts and sciences.
It allows us to do more, he said. It allows us to add specialty programs. We can have specific classrooms for art, music. We can use the main sanctuary as a place for recitals and plays.
The former sanctuary also will be used as a neighborhood community meeting place, he said.
Dougherty and Hart said the county will partner with the Bibb County school system and Central Georgia Technical College to offer educational opportunities, ranging from classes in robotics to GED preparation help. Hart said he also wants to offer vocational training at the center, such as in carpentry or brick-laying, to give neighborhood residents a chance to gain skills needed to find jobs.
The real key is not to try to be a school but to be a partner, Hart said. We can have job retraining, provide enhancement.
Hart said it took about four or five months to put together a deal for the property, which is adjacent to Bloomfield Park, and Dougherty said at least six to eight months of renovations will be necessary before the county could use the Gilead property as the center.
Residents picking up children attending summer camp Monday at Bloomfield Park welcomed news of the sale.
(The current center) is pretty small, so well have more space, said Janet Samuels, whose granddaughter attends the camp. It will be nice if we can get over there.
Katina Turk, who was picking up her daughter from the camp, agreed.
As long as the facility is up to standards, she said. If its larger, it should be able to offer more programs.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.