By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously adopted a resolution this week authorizing it to sell the Harvell Civic Center to the Millington School Board.
Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Don Lowry.
The resolution states that the city’s residents will be “best served” by the school board “owning and controlling” the property, which is located at 8077 Wilkinsville Road.
While declaring that property to be “surplus,” the resolution notes that the school board has offered to purchase it for $230,000.
In February 2016, the school board voted unanimously to “initiate” acquisition of the Civic Center if the Board of Mayor and Aldermen offered it.
Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, thanked City Manager Ed Haley at that meeting for the discussions they had regarding the possible acquisition.
Haley noted that the Center had not been “used to its capabilities.” Citing the “needs” and where it “sits in relation to” Millington Central High School, he said it made sense to him to offer it and let the school board determine how it would help.
Haley also said he thought the city board would “go along with that” if it would benefit the school system. But he noted that the mayor and aldermen needed to know the school board’s plans as soon as possible.
At that meeting, Roper said he would begin a “process of analysis and decisions” about the “usefulness and functionality” of the specific buildings within the Center and then “move forward” with more specific recommendations at a later date.
But at the school board’s April 4, 2016 meeting, the superintendent announced that the school system had decided to postpone its pursuit of the Civic Center acquisition until this year. He said the administration felt that would “allow for greater planning” by the organizations using it at that time.
While noting that the city officials had been “made aware” of that, Roper said they were “comfortable” with postponing that action until this year.
At its March 6 meeting, the school board voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with the city for the acquisition. Based on his discussions with city leaders, Roper said the “transition date” is expected to be April 1.
During the portion of Monday night’s meeting designated for public comments, Jane Lester of 7950 Nelson Road addressed the city board as a spokesperson for Playhouse 51, Millington’s community theater.
She noted that Playhouse 51 has enjoyed a “working partnership” with the Millington Arts, Parks and Recreation Department since the city purchased the old First Baptist Church property in the spring of 2005.
Lester thanked Department Director Kate Armitage and her staff for their “continued support” of the community theater’s “endeavors.”
“We sincerely appreciate that partnership,” she said, “as well as individual support and participation from many of you, without which our little group might not have otherwise survived and prospered.”
Lester said Playhouse 51 is looking forward to its association with the school system after April 1 and its “future home” in the new Performing Arts Center that will be constructed on the MCHS campus. But she acknowledged that the community theater will “definitely miss” the Civic Center and its “host of memories.”
School Board Chairman Cody Childress said it has “no concrete plans at this moment” regarding what to do with the Civic Center buildings.
“I would like to save as much as possible,” he noted, “because I still think they are very comparable buildings that we can make use of. So, I don’t want anybody to jump to any conclusions that we’re going to go in there and bulldoze everything down.”
Childress said Playhouse 51 will “always have a place” to present its productions, and it might stay at the Civic Center. But if the school board decides to keep the auditorium, he said it will be upgraded to make it “as nice as possible.”
By Bill Short