BLUEFIELD — Bluefield residents gathered at Faith Family Center to discuss their concerns about the city on Sunday.
Filling the church from the front to back, those wishing to voice their opinions spoke at microphones before the crowd. To begin the public forum, the topic of the Bluefield Recreational Center was brought forth.
Bishop Fred Brown, the senior pastor of the church, began by informing the crowd that those in participation was, “Not about to shout, and to argue and to cuss and to fuss,” but to have, “Educated discussion.” Prior to opening the floor, Brown voiced his own concerns about the recreation center.
Brown read a quote from Bluefield city manager, Dane Rideout, which involved Rideout saying that as he looked at the city’s “Too many assets,” that the Herb Center was, “The first thing that jumped out.” To Brown, this was a red flag, with him saying, “Why was it the first thing that jumped out?”
In the agreement involving the rec center, the center will be taken over by Bluefield College, in which students and basketball players from the college will be the ones coaching the youth recreational leagues.
“I feel like we should at least be able to see the lease,” Brown said regarding the agreement, “How can Bluefield College students run the program when it’s in the middle of their season?”
Brown also brought forth concerns about the changing of hands of the rec center alleviating the city’s purse strings, as “Tax dollars of Bluefield College go to Tazewell County.”
The first guests to speak on the topic, Delores French, stated she believes the recreation center should be deemed a historic structure. In this building acts such as Tina Turner and James Brown rocked the stage and enjoyed the city, according to French.
“Very seldom am I at a loss for words but I came today because I want to listen but I have a passion for the auditorium,” French said, “I thought all the board members and all our city officials and reverends would have this place packed.”
A large concern of multiple residents who spoke is that they feel they have little to no input in city happenings. According to Brown, and resident Sam Harris, the scheduling of town meetings is inconvenient. With most meetings occurring on Tuesdays at 12 noon, Brown, Harris, and others, feel the timing is done on purpose.
“You are at work doing what you need to do to take care of your family and provide for your community,” Harris said regarding residents being unable to attend the meetings due to work, “They know what they’re doing and they’re doing it behind your back.”
Harris also believes that items and staples within the community are being sold with the citizens being the ones to deal with the consequences. “They plan and they undermine you because they know when they sell everything out the community has to come up with a way to fix it,” Harris said.
Along with the concerns of the center’s basketball programs, citizens are also worried about losing the care programs. These programs allow parents and guardians to take their children there for after school programs. With the new lease, citizens have been given unclear answers as to whether the programs will continue.
To foster parent, Cindy Watson, the center’s after school programs are incredibly important. With two biological children and several foster children, Watson relies on the center for care as she is also a full-time nurse.
“I use the rec every day for their services. I have put 6 to 8 children through there. If I don’t have an after school program I can’t do foster care anymore. I won’t have anywhere for my children to go,” Watson said, “I invited every town council member but I don’t see anybody here.”
According to Watson, she reached out to and spoke with the city manager, Dane Rideout, to which she was informed other options for after school care were being looked at but nothing had been chosen.
— Contact Emily D. Coppola at email@example.com