Community center sparks controversy

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A new community center in one historic neighborhood is causing some controversy.

Tuesday, Gulfport Council voted to approve the certificate of completion for the Willie Locke Community Center, but not before some members of Soria City spoke their minds.

"It's time for them to stop back sliding and work with us just like anybody else in the city of Gulfport," said Dorothy McClendon.

McClendon is usually calm at Gulfport Council meetings, but when it comes to matters of the Soria City Community, this local leader gets fired up.

"You guys do not listen to us. The city administration do not listen to us as to what our needs are. We are made to look like we are trouble makers and we do not agree. We are thankful for our community, but we need to meet the needs of the community, not what the city wants to do," McClendon said.

McClendon claims the newly built Willie Locke Community Center is not what Soria City residents wanted. She also says they've been ignored by the department of leisure services. However,  leisure services director Edmond Salloum says that's not true.

He says from the very beginning he his department has worked with the Soria City Community.

McClendon says that originally, residents asked for a multi-purpose building so that they can plan events for the children and the seniors of the Soria City Community. But what they got was something totally different.

"The building has been here for a very long time, but the community outgrew the building and that's where the need came about approximately five years ago, that we wanted to provide services and classes where we would be able to utilize the building for more than one activity at a time. That's how this all came about," McClendon said.

In the end, council members voted in favor of closing the contract. But McClendon insists there's still more work to do before opening the doors of the community center.

Councilwomen Libby Roland and Ella Holmes-Hines both agreed to meet with the Soria City residents next week.

There's no word on whether members of the department of leisure services will attend that meeting.

The Willie Locke Community Center is scheduled to open next Friday.