The Thomaston –Upson Board of Education entered into a 15-year contract with the Upson Men and Women of Action for use of the Drake-Worthy Gym by the non-profit organization. The vote came at the board’s meeting on Dec. 8.
Upson Men and Women of Action had leased the building from the school system for use while they attempted to start a Boys and Girls Club in Thomaston. The initial lease was for three years and the contract was up for renewal.
Stead Walker and April Smith of Upson Men and Women of Action came before the board to explain the three changes they were asking for in the lease contract.
“The first one is we are changing the name from the Boys and Girls Club to the Thomaston-Upson County Youth Center,” said Walker. “That gives an identity to what we’re all about, and we didn’t want to be confused with the Boys and Girls Club of America.
“The second item is we now have a three-year contract, and we are asking to change it to a 15-year contract, for the simple reason that we have spoken to different people in the community and to those associated with grants, and from the information we’ve gotten, they said it would be easier for them to provide us with funds if we had a long-standing contract to put before them. For example, we’re looking at improving the heating and air conditioning system we have there, to be able to put our youth there during the summer and have a comfortable atmosphere. We have spoken with Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and a couple of other organizations, and they are saying that it would be a whole lot easier to provide funding and assistance with a long-term contract in place.
“The last item is that in the event, if by chance Upson Men and Women of Action decides to fold, that we will be out of the contract and return the property to the school system for you to decide what to do with.”
Board member Steve Sadler asked what they have done so far.
Walker replied that the organization is undergoing a change in board members and changes in policies and procedures. He said they have applied for some grants, but have not received any yet. But, he added, they are making use of the building.
“We’ve had basketball tournaments, birthday parties, an upcoming wrestling event, an upcoming SCLC celebration, and an upcoming baby shower,” said Walker. “So the building is being used again for the community, in the effort of raising money to be able to get the things that we need.”
Board member Angie McGill asked what activities they have planned for the youth.
Smith replied that once the heating and air conditioning system is updated, they plan to have an after school program for youth while school is in session, and a summer camp when school is out. Walker added that he and Smith are both working in a similar program in Lamar County, and plan on bringing that program to Upson County.
“We already have everything set up from the lesson plans used,” said Walker. “It will pretty much bring what is already in Lamar County into Upson County. We’ve seen it proven that it works. Ms. Smith has been in it for 15 years and I’ve been in it for the last two and a half years. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, but we’re trying to pass the wheel onto another county where it can be used successfully here like we have in Lamar County.”
Board member Terrell Jackson verified that the organization is asking for an open-ended contract.
“Where if they should fold up, that the property reverts back to us with all improvements and everything?” asked Jackson.
Walker confirmed Jackson’s question.
Board member Keith Rohling made a motion to approve the contract, pending review and approval by the board attorney. Board member Jacqueline Hollis seconded the motion, and it was approved, 6-0-1, with McGill abstaining.