Ashby Foote, a member of Jackson City Council from District 1, asked for a list of all the facilities for which the City of Jackson is responsible and the ones he received surprised him.
The 16-page inventory document lists more than 1.9 million square meters, from town hall to concession stands.
âI knew we had a lot,â said Foote, praising the thoroughness of the inventory.
Foote wanted to know how many facilities the city owns – more than 510, including storage sheds, shelters, and press boxes – because he feared that there would not be enough funds to keep them properly maintained.
The city budgets $ 3.141 million for facilities, including about $ 900,000 in wages and $ 100,000 in benefits.
The budget to maintain the facilities is $ 300,225, but that’s not enough to get the job done that should be done, said Foote, who estimates it needs “several million dollars” annually.
As the council begins the budgeting process for the next fiscal year, Foote wants to ensure that more funds are available to preserve the city’s buildings.
“I’m going to make it a big topic for budget hearings,” said Foote, vice chairman of the council’s budget committee. “I think it is essential for us to finance the facilities we have in a meaningful way.”
City buildings to be preserved include Thalia Mara Hall, Arts Center of Mississippi, Russell C. Davis Planetarium, Jackson Municipal Art Gallery, Jackson Zoo, Smith Robert Museum and Cultural Center, Mississippi Museum of Art, the Dizzy Dean Museum, Parham Bridges Tennis Center, Smith-Wills Stadium and Union Station.
The Jackson Police Department Headquarters and City Courthouse, Police Training Academy, four police stations, gun booth, and other facilities, as well as Jackson Fire Department Headquarters, Fire Department Training Center, and stations across the city also need maintenance.
Also in need of maintenance are development centers for children, communication towers, fire stations, golf courses, libraries, parks, senior centers, swimming pools and water towers, as well as the OB Curtis water treatment plant, the JH Fewell water treatment plant, the wastewater treatment plant in Savanna Street Plant, the Trahon sewage treatment plant and the Presidential Hills sewage treatment plant.
Clearly, the city does not have a sufficient budget to properly maintain all of its facilities, said Virgi Lindsay, ward 7 council member.
“This has been an issue for many years,” said Lindsay, President of the Council. “We probably own too much real estate and a careful analysis of what we need from our inventory is done by public works.”
It takes time to analyze what buildings the city might have, and some like the town hall have special conditions attached.
City Hall is Freemasons’, Lindsay said, and the City of Jackson rents it for $ 1 a year in exchange for maintaining the building from the mid-19th century.
The city owns the buildings that house seven of the Jackson-Hinds Library System branches, but three of them are closed for maintenance and another, the Eudora Welty Library, is open but at risk, Foote said .
Next to the Tisdale Library at 807 E. Northside Drive, the Richard Wright Library at 515 W. McDowell Road is closed for water and roof problems, and the Fannie Lou Hamer Library, located in the Golden Key Senior Citizen Center at 3450 Albermarle Street, is locked while the center is being renovated.
According to state law, libraries must be owned by a city or county, not a library system. The communities are responsible for repairs, while daily maintenance such as cleaning and unstopping the toilets is handled by the library system.
The Arts Center of Mississippi, 201 E. Pascagoula St., is home to local arts organizations including Ballet Mississippi, Opera Mississippi, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and the Greater Jackson Arts Council, and there have been air-conditioning issues this summer, Foote said.
The problem with the Arts Center is sourcing parts for repairs, said Drew Ridinger, Jackson City facility manager who works with multiple companies to get the job done.
When the air conditioning in the Warren G. Hood Building, 200 S. President St., went straight away, it too had problems getting the parts. “We had a lead time of 17 weeks to replace the chiller in the Hood Building,” said Ridinger.
Ridinger said the maintenance budget is about $ 60,000 through the end of the fiscal year.
Foote wants to put unused buildings up for sale, just as the city is auctioning off vehicles it no longer needs. The city’s vacant properties include space in the Metrocenter, which once occupied Dillard’s department store, the building at 711 W. Capitol St. that once housed Atmos, and the former Junior Achievement Building at 1695 High St.
“We need to find ways to preserve buildings that are not in the hands of the private sector so that they can take care of them and add value to the city,” he said.
Foote does not support the plan of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba for the city to buy the former Batte Furniture & Interiors location at 1010 E. Northside Drive and place the closed Tisdale library there, and move Precinct 4 there and possibly another city Offices.
“For every building we buy, we should sell three buildings,” he said.
Lumumba has mentioned equipping urban buildings with solar panels that would generate energy, but Foote rejects the idea.
“This is another investment that we should make,” he said. “We have to fix the buildings as they are now before we put solar panels on them.”