by Jeremy Morrison
When Escambia County’s commissioners sit down today for a final look at next fiscal year’s $434 million budget before signing off on it, they will be asked to carve out a bit more money for the Brownsville Community Center.
“We’re trying to make sure the needs of the community are really addressed,” said Mike Kilmer, chairman of the Historic Brownsville Neighborhood Association.
According to Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown, there’s currently about $250,000 in the budget allotted for the community center, which is undergoing renovations before opening. And he doesn’t sound entirely optimistic about the commissioners’ willingness to scare up the additional $400,000 the neighborhood group is looking for.
“That’s gonna be hard,” Brown said.
The administrator has placed the Brownsville group on tonight’s agenda, but said the final public hearing represented “the last minute” to make the request. He wasn’t sure commissioners would be willing to start digging around in the budget at this late date.
“Will the board do it or not do, I really don’t know,” Brown said.
The community center being planned for Brownsville will be based in the former Brownsville Assembly of God building.
“It’s cool,” Kilmer said. “It’s like an old church.”
The property consists of a two-story building constructed in 1997. The first floor totals 22,728 square feet, while the second is 14,043 square feet. Renovations to property include a partial roof replacement and a new HVAC system. There are also interior renovations, such as new ceilings and partition modifications, planned.
Aside from the $250,000 slated for equipment, such as the furniture and lighting, the cost of designing and renovating the center carries a price tag of $1,793,175. The architectural work has already been completed, and a construction contract was awarded in July. The project is expected to wrap up next March.
“It’s a big project,” Brown said. “It’s going to be really nice.”
Kilmer said that he’s excited about the plans, but would also like to see some additional considerations taken when mapping out the community center. For example, he said, the center could be an ideal spot to locate a small library for the area.
“We could really use a library out here,” Kilmer said.
The county administrator stressed that the county is “fully committed to revitalizing the Brownsville community,” but noted that securing additional funding at this juncture could be tough.
“It’s like a lot of things,” Brown said, “there’s a lot of good projects out there and they’re competing against each other for money.”
The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners will hold the final public hearing on the county budget today at 5:30 p.m. at the downtown governmental complex on Palafox.