Dobbins Heights Council votes to keep basketball court closed

 

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

DOBBINS HEIGHTS — Is it safe, asked one resident.

“No, ma’am,” replied Mayor Antonio Blue without hesitation.

Blue and members of the Dobbins Heights Town Council came under fire Thursday night from James Whitt, who suggested Blue did not have the authority to close the basketball court at Dobbins Heights Community Park on June 13 without a vote of the council.

Whitt’s son, Quentin Gore, 19, had addressed council members the night before during a public meeting. There, he said the basketball court was unsafe to play on and he and his friends risked injury from landing on cracks 2 or more inches wide and deep and many cracks several feet long.

Blue has said since then that after the issue was brought to his attention on June 12 and The Pee Dee Post article was published that same night, he had no choice but to close the court and roped off its perimeter with yellow caution tape.

James Whitt

James Whitt

“Dobbins Heights is not going ton e sued about a basketball court,” Blue said. “I deemed it unsafe. It is my duty to make sure things are safe and done proper.”

Whitt wasn’t satisfied and compelled Blue to seek the council’s support. Before making a motion to keep the court closed until the court can be property repair or replaced, Councilwoman Gracie C. Jackson addressed those in attendance.

“My precious little grandson,” Jackson said, “he’s 14, he’s tall for his age. He asks me every day, ‘when is the basketball court going to be fixed?’ I said, ‘well, we’re working on it. We need money to fix it.’ I tried to explain to him so he’ll understand.”

Jackson added that even if he didn’t understand, it was still her duty to keep him safe.

“What I’m telling him (is) I know what’s best,” Jackson said. “He has to listen to the advice of adults, his parents and the directions of the council, just like anybody else.”

Councilman Tyre’ Holloway, who along with Councilwoman Angeline K. David is charged with overseeing Parks and Recreation issues in town, said that court “means the world to me.”

“I learned how to play basketball on that court,” Holloway said. “I got my first dunk on that basketball court. It hurts me (to see it closed). It brought me almost to tears. That is one of my top priorities … is to get this court fixed. We looked at patching vs. replacement. It’s more financially sound to do the court right this time so that we won’t had ego revisit this issue five, six, seven months from now.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Tu’Quan Breeden, 22, carefully places his foot in the crack under one of the basketball hoops at Dobbins Heights Community Park. The cracks are 1 inch or more deep and run across the court in most every direction.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Tu’Quan Breeden, 22, carefully places his foot in the crack under one of the basketball hoops at Dobbins Heights Community Park. The cracks are 1 inch or more deep and run across the court in most every direction.

To patch the court would cost about $35,000, Blue said. To replace it will cost about $50,000. No money is earmarked in the town’s budget for Fiscal Year 2015, which began July 1, for repairs or replacement.

Blue said the town’s recent effort to hire an tax foreclosure specialist to pursue some $250,000 in delinquent property taxes would help if even a fraction of that money ends up being collected.

“Here’s what my suggestion is,” Blue said. “There’s $250,000 in delinquent taxes in Dobbins Heights. If we collect the $250,000, the basketball court becomes a dream that will come true. There are 1,400 delinquent properties. So if we can start getting some of that. That basketball court has been broke for probably 12 or 13 years. This didn’t just happen.”

Whitt acknowledged he was behind in paying property taxes to the town — to the tune of at least $7,000.

“I’m going to pay my taxes,” said Whitt, who continued to question why money was spent on pool upkeep, swings and picnic tables instead of the basketball court.

Blue said those projects were funded with a combination of regularly budgeted Parks and Recreation dollars and donations. He also said town officials were seeking outside funding. Blue said the town had sent letters to the owners of Burger King in North Carolina, as well as to former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mike Quick, a Hamlet native.

Seeking funding from those types of sources, though, takes time.

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