Freeport City Council holds special meeting on new community center

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The Freeport City Council held a workshop to discuss the new community center. It is proposed for the area by the city hall. The batting cage and playground equipment would have to be moved, but it is about 15 years old, so much of it would need to be replaced anyway. 

The question arose as to how the batting cage was paid for; if by grant, they would need to follow those rules as far as length of time, possibly 20 years. The rope net should be replaced as well.  Alex Rouchaleau, Dewberry Engineering, said that only a dry pond would be necessary. He also questioned whether the parking lot would need updating. There are two Live Oak trees that would interfere with the proposed building. 

City Planning Director Latilda Hughes – Neal said that an arborist should be hired, and the trees trimmed instead of removed. She also said that there is about $20,000 in the budget currently to improve the parking area, redo the front, put in a landscape buffer that is required on all developments. Given that 331 business is a county road, they agreed to a layout that would put the road to the north side of the building. Hughes – Neel said there is additional funding to put towards that as well. This plan redesigns the entire rear parking lot where the employees park, creating a central aisle with perpendicular parking spaces. 

Anthony Vallee, McWhorter Vallee Design, Inc., presented a proposed floor plan. The proposed building would accommodate 200 people with a large space in the center, a stage with enclosed rooms on both sides, restrooms and a kitchenette on the other side. The outside measurements of the building would be approximately 50’ x 80’. 

Freeport Council member Eddie Farris strongly recommended having a bathroom close to the stage, and a wheelchair accessible ramp to access the stage. He also suggested a door leading outside from the stage area. The kitchen would not have a stove due to the commercial requirements of a stove hood. It could have a microwave, coffee maker, or anything that can be plugged into a standard outlet. It would also have a window so that people can access items from the kitchen. 

Vallee questioned the color scheme, and it was suggested they go with a neutral theme. Questions were asked about the type flooring; tile is durable, but tends to reverberate sound. Those questions would be discussed at a later stage of the planning process. 

Freeport Council member Elizabeth Brannon suggested that these things should be done from the start, that it would be difficult to go back and redo things. 

Hughes – Neal spoke concerning the sound and lighting systems. She participates in the Grit & Grace Folk Life production, and is familiar with these systems. Vallee suggested that if the ceiling proportions were adequate and a mezzanine was installed, the wires and equipment could be installed there even at a later time. Access to it may be an issue and the roof may need to be raised to accommodate it. 

Also, Hughes – Neel strongly recommended that the building be named after a founding person. She suggested Gertrude “Trudy” Boudreaux who at the age of 94 passed away on October 5, 2020. She had been active in various Freeport causes. That would be discussed at a later date.