By Mack Spencer


Selectmen and McComb city officials clashed Wednesday afternoon during a special called meeting to discuss the configuration of the proposed Martin Luther King Recreation Center.

Some board members discussed the matter among themselves and with architect Kusa Olutosin of M3A Architecture after receiving some proposed changes to the previously presented plan from Recreation Director Joyce Smith in Tuesday’s work session.

Discussing the matter Wednesday allowed the board to also purchase interim insurance coverage from National Fire and Marine Insurance Co. for State Theater while the sprinkler system is being repaired. That totaled $12,101.

Selectmen Devante Johnson and Ronnie Brock put forward several concerns, including a lack of showers in the locker rooms, the proposed office space and the use of other space outside of the gymnasium portion of the building.

Smith, meanwhile, advocated for office space and a sitting area, moving the ticket booth closer to the entrance and putting access to the ticket booth, concession stand and mechanical room inside rather than through outside doors.

“I think we should have showers for both the men and women,” Johnson said. “That’s important to me.”

“I think we should have showers for both the men and women,” Johnson said. “That’s important to me.”

Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said many schools are moving away from including showers in locker rooms when they build new facilities due to legal issues.

“What legal issues?” Johnson asked.

“Sexual cases,” Lockley said. “Sexual assault.”

Brock said he wanted showers anyway.

“We’re putting in the money to build a state-of-the-art facility,” he said. “We don’t need to go back to the Stone Age.”

Selectman Michael Cameron, participating by phone, asked Olutosin, also on the phone, what would need to be eliminated to add showers to the plan.

Lockley said showers would take up some of the room allocated and said Smith was “OK without showers.”

“It’s her department, so I’ll go with her,” Cameron said.

Smith defended her preferences for the building.

“I want it to have an office. That’s just business,” Smith said. “If we need to have a meeting over there, where are we going to sit? In the bleachers?

“I don’t want showers. I’ve made that clear. The trend is going away from that, and there are so many diseases today.”

She also wanted to keep a sitting area in the lobby so people can sit in the lobby and eat at the concession stand rather than carrying food and drink into the gym, and she said she prefers a hardwood floor to a rubberized surface in the gym.

Selectman Shawn Williams agreed with Smith’s suggestion to move the janitor’s closet out of the locker rooms, which was a feature of the M3A plan, as well as moving the access points for the ticket booth, concession stand and mechanical room inside.

“When you brought in these ideas, I loved it,” Williams said. “I don’t care about the showers.”

While Brock questioned Smith about some of the differences between the M3A plan and her conception, Lockley suddenly and loudly admonished Johnson and City Administrator Dirkland Smith for arguing across him and the table.

Johnson and the CA continued their skirmish, with each telling the other they “got the wrong one” to argue with or talk about.

Lockley again tried to bring the meeting to order, and Johnson said, “You need to tell” Smith.

“I’m telling both of you,” Lockley shouted loudly. “You will respect me.”

When the meeting calmed down, Olutosin said he could address some of the concerns by shrinking the proposed office space, including the same facilities in each locker room and drawing up plans with and without showers.

“Can we get a consensus on the showers?” Brock asked.

Lockley said M3A had asked for any changes to be submitted in writing, and Williams asked that the plans be drawn both ways, with and without showers.

“I think M3A is on target,” Brock said. “We just need to tweak some things.”

Board members came to no conclusions, however, and the board adjourned. Johnson made the motion, then stood up and left before Lockley called the vote.

After the meeting, Fire Chief Gary McKenzie suggested a focus group or community committee of school and volunteer recreation coaches to give input into how they think the building should be designed.

Lockley, however, said that should be unnecessary.

“My department heads are my experts,” Lockley said. “I expect them to know what they’re doing.”

Williams lamented the tone of the meeting.

“We should be able to sit down as adults, work things out and have some understanding,” he said. “We’re supposed to represent the people, and this was not that. I took off work to attend this meeting, and this is what I got.”

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