HAMMOND — The City Council, on a split vote, after often heated discussion, agreed to authorize Mayor Mason Foster to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with an organization that will provide a summer educational and fitness program.
On a 4-1 vote, the council gave its approval for the Willie B. & Lin B. Community Youth Center to use the city’s Michael J. Kenney Recreation Center for the summer program which will run between May 28 and July 26.
Foster presented the proposal to the council and introduced April Simmons, who will conduct the summer program.
Simmons said she anticipates enrolling between 75 and 100 children ages 5 to 14 in the program, which will emphasize academics along with instruction in crafts, proper nutrition and physical activity.
Simmons, who explained that the program would be staffed by qualified teachers, said participants would receive breakfast and lunch during sessions which will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost of the program would be $125, Simmons said.
Foster explained that the city anticipates spending up to $7,500 in support of the summer camp if the funds are needed by Simmons to cover costs.
Councilman Lemar Marshall then launched into a lengthy list of reasons for his opposition to the summer program and the use of a public facility, such as the Kenney Center, for a private endeavor.
Marshall also said at one point that Monroe Jones, the city’s recreation director, was opposed to the program. As he exchanged comments with Simmons and Council President Jason Hood, Marshall said that Foster had refused to discuss the summer program and would not return his telephone calls.
Foster shot back, “I deny everything that you are saying!”
Hood ended that discussion with a vigorous pounding of his gavel.
Assistant Recreation Director Daryl Smith told the council that Jones was not opposed to the program and he read a statement from Jones, who could not attend the meeting, stating his support for Simmons and her summer youth initiative. Smith said the Kenney Center would not be closed to youth who could not afford the camp, pointing out that two gyms are available to everyone at the center.
After the frequently acrimonious discussion, Marshall moved that the resolution be tabled. Councilman Mike Williams seconded his motion that failed when Councilmen Johnny Blount and Bobby Martin, with Hood and Williams, voted against tabling. A motion to approve the summer program then passed with only Marshall voting against.