$1.7 Million Community Ctr. Effort

The city of Meridian is one step closer to possibly securing funding for a major community project. The $600,000 grant is from the Mississippi Development Authority. The city of Meridian is pledging $750,000 in matching funds. Lauderdale County, the Meridian Housing Authority and the East Mississippi Boys and Girls Club are pledging at least $350,000 in additional resources for the effort. If the city is awarded the grant it will be used to build a major new community center within the East End area in Meridian.

"Hopefully, we will get that grant and be able to move forward, and put somewhere near a $2 million building there, which is monumental," says City Council President Dustin Markham. "It's historic; it's never been done in that East End Community."

"We've got to start making investments back into the inner city if we are going to ever expand out,"says Mayor Percy Bland.

At this time the plan is to use the new building to provide programs for the Boys and Girls Club afterschool and during the summer. It will also be used for activities that could include things such as: craft, exercise and computer classes during the day for adults.

Although the proposed center would be built in the Velma Young Park area, supporters of the effort say the entire city would benefit from it.

"It helps the entire city of Meridian because now you have positive places for our children to go, and positive things within those community centers," says Councilman Markham. "The programs will help for those kids and adults to better themselves by doing homework, job searches, or applying for grants, and other things that can also help that community."

"If we can move forward with the project on the west side of town with Highland Park," says Mayor Bland, "and then have this community center on the east side of town we can start to do some of the things that we need to do to impact families, to impact children, to impact this city to help as it relates to training and development, job placement, job training, career readiness, all of the things that we want to do to impact lives."

MDA officials are expected to announce the recipient of the grant next month.

Here's a breakdown of local funding that is being pledged for the project: the Meridian City Council has approved $750,000 in matching funds; Lauderdale County is offering $250,000 in in-kind resources, and District Four Supervisor Joe Norwood is pledging an additional $50,000 in cash; the Meridian Housing Authority is also pledging $50,000 for the project.