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Longview council to vote on Paula Martin Jones

By Richard Yeakley
June 11, 2015 at 4:05 a.m.

Guests look around the newly-renovated swimming area at the Paula Martin Jones Center Wednesday, January 20, 2010. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

A youth program's summer use of the Paula Martin Jones Recreation Center will not interfere with water aerobics and will occupy the weight room and gymnasium during traditionally slower hours at the facility, according to a proposal.

The Longview City Council will consider approving an agreement today with Paula Martin Jones Charities.

The deal between the city and the nonprofit group is a significant change from an original proposal that would have seen the city relinquish control of the facility and the nonprofit organization reconstruct much of the property to allow for CrossFit training as part of a youth program called Thrive360.

The city-run recreation center has been the center of debate since Paula Martin Jones Charities asked the city in April to return the facility for the creation of the Thrive360 program.

The center previously was owned by the charity, which gave it to the city in 1999. Since that time, the city has spent about $1 million renovating the pool and part of the property.

The new proposal would allow Thrive360 to begin June 22.

The nonprofit organization would have a group membership with the recreation center and would have priority access to portions of the facility throughout the summer, Mondays through Fridays, said city spokesman Shawn Hara.

"The city of Longview Parks and Recreation recognizes the value of this program and the need to reach out to the youth in our community," facility manager Keith Bibb wrote in a letter to center members dated June 8. "Although some of our members here at the Paula Martin Jones Recreation Center will need to adjust their workout routine, we trust that they can see the benefit in having this program for our community and will accept these amended areas of facility usage."

Hara said the hours — 10 a.m. to noon and then 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — usually are a slow time for the facility.

The program will use the pool three times, from 1 to 3 p.m. June 19, July 17 and Aug. 14. The periods traditionally would be open swim and would not conflict with water aerobics courses, Hara said.

Jonathan Jehorek, executive director of the Paula Martin Jones Charities, which is trying to get the program off the ground, was unable to be reached for comment.

District 2 Councilwoman Nona Snoddy, who will bring the proposal before the rest of the council and represents the area of town that includes the facility, was unavailable for comment.

Many of the more than 300 regular members of the facility had spoken out at public meetings against the initial request to hand over the facility.

Additionally, more than 500 people signed a petition encouraging the city to keep the facility.

Barbara McDaniel, a member of the Friends of Paula Martin Jones Recreation Center, said she was pleased with the new agreement that would govern the relationship between the charity and the city through the summer.

"We thought they would be using the pool more than only three times the whole summer. ... I think it is good," said McDaniel, who added she and others still likely would be at tonight's council meeting to observe the final decision.

McDaniel said she isn't concerned about the city and the charity reaching another compromise for how to divide the time at the facility during the school year.

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