Congressman Steve Womack joined Mayor Jerry Jackson and a group of city leaders and business owners on Wednesday at the Chamber of Commerce Conference Room to give advice on what the next step should be regarding the community center that was proposed and voted down last November. The previous plan asked for funding through two sales tax initiatives that would fund bonds for construction and then maintain the center along with other park facilities.
After the project was rejected by voters there was brief attempt, headed by former Harrison Mayor Jeff Crockett, to attract the YMCA to Harrison. For economic reasons within the YMCA organization a new facility is currently unfeasible. The YMCA has opened three facilities in the last ten years while closing more than 100 and have an additional 150 facilities with financial difficulties.
The Congressman began by asking the group where the idea to build this community center came from. The group answered that the idea originated from two simultaneous sources, one being discussions between the parks department and certain city leaders and the other being from the Believe Boone County Initiative. Womack then asked what was done to determine if this was a pressing need in the minds of the Harrison residents.
Without heavy input from residents Womack said this kind of project will be difficult to pass saying that this project should be driven by a community needs survey that asks citizens to specify what they would like to see happen in their city. Womack pointed out that a community center may take a lower priority on the list of resident needs than was realized upon initiating the project.
Mayor Jackson and Chamber of Commerce President Bob Largent say that a community needs survey is in the works. The survey will be attached to a grant opportunity through a partnership with Entergy Arkansas and The University of Central Arkansas’. The grant is called the Community Catalyst Program and it seeks to assist five Arkansas communities to “develop small, actionable community economic development goals.” One of the selected communities is Harrison and the survey is expected to begin in June or July. Mayor Jackson also expressed a great interest in an extensive community survey done by the city to see what citizens of Harrison feel they need most and if those needs can be fulfilled by a community center.