Schools to give park to Magee

The Simpson County School District may have the final word on the Washington Street Park, which the City of Magee has asked the district to transfer to them. 

A state law requires that if a school property no longer serves the needs of the community its ownership will revert to the school district.  

The same law applies to the former Magee Elementary facility that is now being used as a Headstart facility.  The school board gave the city the elementary facility when a new school was built on Goodwater Road. 

The school board has now agreed to transfer the ownership of Washington Street Park to the City of Magee because the city offered the school district one of two choices: either do so or the city would start charging the school district $15,000 a year for lease of the fields at the Jimmy Clyde Sportsplex for high school athletics.  No other options were offered. 

One school board member said that “the city had them over a barrel and there was not much that could be done.”  In return for transferring  Washington Street Park to the city, the school district would get free use of the ballfield for 15 years along with the use of a girls softball field.  The city also charges Simpson Academy for use of the facility. 

The original agreement, according to Superintendent Greg Paes, was that the school board agreed to pay $15,000 for 10 years to offset the cost of acquisition of the facility. 

Prior to the new field being built, Paes said that the school district had not been charged for school teams to play on the fields.  After Magee started charging the school district for use of the Sportsplex field, Mendenhall also started charging. The charges were to be used to improve the actual facility at the parks. 

A letter from the Magee Board of Aldermen stating their terms was sent to the school board dated December 23. It followed a city board meeting in which the board went into executive session to discuss the terms of the transaction.  Members of the Magee board met with the county school board and requested an executive session to discuss the transaction. The school board refused to go into closed session. 

The school board set up a special board meeting on Jan. 9 to discuss the issue of school use of the playing fields.  No one from the City of Magee attended the meeting.  Magee officials were aware of that meeting because it was mentioned at a previous board meeting.