BAKER — The city will soon have a new religious retreat center on the old Leland College property off Groom Road, Councilman Pete Heine announced Tuesday at the Baker City Council meeting.
“This deal is for real. It’s going to happen, and it will give Baker the most positive publicity it has ever had,” Heine said.
Some ground has been cleared on the 227-acre site, and a sign has been erected. The Leland Foundation and the Baton Rouge-based Fourth District Missionary Baptist Association, which are working together on the project, have not yet obtained building permits, Heine said.
Plans call for guest housing, including a possible hotel, a cafe and classrooms. The development should take at least a year to complete, he said.
“We’ll have guests from all over the country (after the center is built),” Mayor Harold Rideau said.
He added that rumors an apartment complex is set to be built on the site are not true.
Historically black Leland College closed in 1960, and the property has been largely undeveloped since then.
In other business, Baker resident Charles Crittenden complained about the council spending time on proclamations, such as the agenda item to declare February 2016 as American Heart Month in the city.
“I don’t understand why we have to do this, when it’s done at the federal level,” Crittenden told the council.
On Jan. 29, President Barack Obama declared February 2016 American Heart Month.
“We do the proclamations locally so that local people have the opportunity to be part of the events associated with the proclamation,” Councilwoman Joyce Burges said. “Also when the proclamations are made on the federal level, they say to also do it on the local level.”
Councilman Charles Vincent said the proclamations are sent to the national organizations involved. They also are important for awareness and education of local residents, he said.
The council went on to vote unanimously in favor of the American Heart Month proclamation. Councilman John Givens was absent.
Rideau also mentioned that Baker Fire Chief Danny Edwards is compiling a list of athletes from Baker to invite to the annual prayer breakfast in June. Residents are encouraged to call (225) 300-8027 with suggestions.