Meridian Star

October 11, 2013

City officials get answers on Highland Park project

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
From staff reports

MERIDIAN —    The county's controversial $14 million bond issue drew the attention of the Meridian City Council at a work session on Thursday.

    Council members asked Mark Naylor, acting director of Parks and Recreation, to give them some details of what the city needs to do about the proposed Highland Park project. That is a city-owned park, but the county is footing the bill for  the $4 million project. The Highland Park project is a part of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors bond issue that is held up in the state's Supreme Court.

    The Highland Park plans, as proposed by District Four Supervisor Joe Norwood, call for construction of a 32,000 square foot facility to house indoor sports, such as basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer. It will have a three-court gymnasium with bleachers at both ends, and an entrance with bathrooms and an administrative space.

    Ward One Councilman George Thomas, council president, said he wanted to know what Parks and Recreation would be expected to do when the building is up and operational. He wants to know how much the city is going to have to pay in the operation and maintenance.

    "It's one thing to build it," Thomas said. "It's another thing to operate it."

    Naylor said in terms of staffing, it would not create a problem for his department. It might even help, since basketball is currently being played at different locations and the new facility would allow them to have it all in one building.

    Naylor told the council that the biggest expense to the city will be paying the electricity bill for it. He also answered questions about the park and the historic neighborhood in which it sits. Naylor said

representatives of the Mississippi Department of Archives and HIstory visited Meridian recently and he took them to the park, explaining the project to them.

    "We have to get a permit from Archives and History before we do anything in the park because it's historic as it relates to the carousel or anything else," Naylor said.

    The archives officials had only one concern, according to Naylor. They asked about parking spaces that are planned for an area near where a 1911 steam engine train sits. Naylor said plan is to move that train to the tracks downtown where other trains are displayed at the Meridian Railroad Museum.

    At some point, Naylor said, the city and county will have to sign an interlocal agreement to move forward with the project.