B’ham Parks Board President on closing a dozen rec centers: ‘There’s been a miscommunication’

Parks board president on rec center controversy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re continuing to follow the controversial issue of 12 recreation centers possibly being shut down in Birmingham.

The city council decided Tuesday morning to not stop the Parks and Recreations Board from voting to close them.

The night before Wednesday morning’s vote, president of the board Montal Morton, said the board was facing a multi-million dollar budget cut which led to staff furloughs and that impacted the city’s ability to operate the rec centers at full capacity.

Although item "g" on the board’s next meeting agenda says: “Consideration of a request to approve the proposed Recreation Center sites to be closed. Sites will be monitored daily by maintenance and staff,” Morton said the board had no intention of closing the centers completely.

“They won’t be open every day, but there will still be programs there. We are working with the director of parks and recs to make sure those recs open up two or three days a week,” Morton explained.

The programs had not been finalized at the time we spoke to Morton, but he said they would include initiatives like after-school programs, lunch programs, and seniors.

Morton said he understands the importance of rec centers in local communities and that facility use and attendance are not an issue.

As for how or why each site was chosen for schedule modification, Morton said those decisions were based on staffing.

“There is a problem. There is an economic shortfall and some tough decisions have to be made,” he said.

The city is looking at more than a $62 million shortfall due to COVID-19.

Earlier Tuesday morning during a council meeting, Councilor Crystal Smitherman called on the council to help keep the buildings in operation.

“Maybe this can be the fire under this council to look into the budget to see where we can propose some cuts so that we can give the money to the park and recreation board. The problem they don’t have enough money.”

The park board will vote on the matter Wednesday morning. We’ll update this story when a decision is made.

You can view our previous story on the proposal here.

Locations proposed for closure:

  • Roosevelt
  • Wiggins
  • Henry-Crompton
  • Harrison
  • Sandusky
  • Hooper City
  • Howze-Sanford
  • North Birmingham
  • Harriman
  • Brownsville
  • Inglenook
  • Willowwood

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