Years after ending its operation of the Martin Community Center, the Floyd County Fiscal Court may return to that role.
For more than a year now, Martin business owner Deanna Mullins has addressed the fiscal court at nearly every meeting, requesting that the county lease the facility to her to start a nonprofit afterschool program there.
Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams reported on Wednesday that Mullins is one of three people affiliated with two local nonprofits and a business that have approached him about leasing the community center from the county.
He said the fiscal court is “open to anything” in regards to possibilities for the facility, but he also noted that he’s pretty sure the county will operate it on its own.
“At this point, our plans are to get the building fixed,” he said. “We want to see exactly what we have there. As far as agreeing to rent, I know Ms. Mullins has been — actually, we’ve got about three people that want to rent it. I don’t know if that’s something at this point in the game, we can’t consider it right now. We’re going to have to wait.”
He said there could be issues with the fiscal court using taxpayer funds to renovate the center, then renting it to a business.
“We certainly have to entertain any and all offers,” he said. “I just think it’s going to be difficult for us to separate those county dollars and then turn around and do a sublease on this to someone. When you’re using taxpayer dollars, it should be for the benefit of the taxpayers.”
Williams said no formal offers have been made to lease the facility from the county under his administration. Although the decision is preliminary, he reported the county will likely assume operations of it.
“I would say the possibility of the county operating it is probably going to be 90 percent,” Williams said. “Because I don’t honestly see, like I said, how we’re going to separate and justify spending our tax dollars. It’s a, I don’t want to say, it’s not a legal issue. It’s what I think is right. You know, we’re using your tax dollars and it should be open to the public.”
Williams said the county has the resources to operate the center.
“It’s just going to be a community center. I don’t see it being an issue as far as the funding. When the community center was there before, now the city, what they did was, when you have these different functions, it’s self-sustaining,” he said, talking about visitors paying admission to games held there in the past.
Throughout the year, county employees have been working at the community center —painting, cleaning up the interior, cutting trees and increasing the parking area in back of the building. The fiscal court has also purchased spray foam insulation and made other improvements there.
This month, the fiscal court voted to spend more than $70,500 at SnapSports on flooring, choosing a bid that was higher than others submitted. Officials described it as the best bid because the flooring is water resistant, included a quote for self-leveling and would be under warranty for 16 years.
With that purchase — which officials said would be funded through a $75,000 grant — the fiscal court will have spent more than $100,000 on the community center since January, Williams reported.
“Well, what happened, we thought we’d get up there; we’d just get in there and paint it. When we started tearing the walls out, we probably — I don’t know — probably run out about 25-30 snakes we encountered in the walls and ceiling,” Williams said. “All the plumbing was destroyed. We had to replace all the plumbing. We had to spray foam on plumbing, that we really wasn’t anticipating … “
Officials reported this marks the third time that the fiscal court has replaced the floor at the community center.
Williams noted the quality of the work that’s been done there.
“Everything that’s been done up there, it’s going to last 20, 30 years. We’ve done it right,” he said.
He expects the community center to open in a few weeks, reporting that the timing is dependent on the release of grant funding for the purchase of the floor.
The county’s prior administration voted repeatedly to put the community center up for sale over the past few years. Former county officials said it would cost around $150,000 to fix it, but upon taking office in January, Williams said he believed the county could repair it for $50,000. At the time, he also said county officials “don’t want to be in the community center business” and talked about fixing the center up to lease or rent it to another party.
The last time the fiscal court put the center up for sale was in October 2018, but the fiscal court turned down an offer for $150,000 in November, when Williams and newly-elected magistrates George Ousley and Mark Crider asked the fiscal court not to sell it.
The center was originally a mining supply company and was later occupied by a lighting company that was administratively dissolved by the Kentucky Secretary of State in 1994. The fiscal court operated the community center for years, but then leased it to the City of Martin after officials reported the county couldn’t afford to operate it.
From 2001 to December 2018, the fiscal court spent more than $500,000 on repairs to the community center. The building has been vacant now for about eight years.