One alderman is hoping to bring new life to Jefferson Street Park.
Alderman Rupa Blackwell has started a new initiative to help fund needed improvements to the park’s basketball courts.
The maintenance of the park on the south side of town has been a frequent topic of discussion among city leaders and residents alike, Blackwell told The News.
“I hear multiple concerns, but I feel like something we can address is this basketball court,” Blackwell said. “It’s cracked; there’s pooling; there’s random grass growing in it.”
Blackwell said the concerns about the basketball court have grown in number over the last three weeks, prompting her to take her concerns to the city government.
According to City Administrator Jennifer Moody, the basketball goals at the park were removed for refurbishing at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic closures.
Despite some moderate relaxing of restrictions from the state, “direct contact sports,” such as basketball, are still prohibited under Gov. Bill Lee’s Tennessee Pledge, Moody told The News via email.
The goals have remained off their posts for two reasons, according to Moody. The first is “no one is supposed to be playing basketball,” and the second is the opportunity to use staff for new projects that became possible only while the community centers were closed.”
“Our staff used this time to repaint the basketball goals with fun, vibrant, artistic designs,” Moody said, “and they will be going back up as soon as the governor lifts restrictions on direct contact sports.”
Blackwell’s goal, she said, is to get the courts completely repaired, but Moody said that comes with a hefty price tag.
“I would like to have us completely repave and also redo this basketball court,” Blackwell said. “I reached out to Jennifer Moody about that, and she expects [the price to be] thirty to fifty thousand dollars.”
According to Moody, large city projects over a certain amount come with added regulations that cause delays and add to the price.
“One reason for increased expense (over what private or volunteers can do) is that any city project over $25,000 must be professionally designed per state law,” Moody told The News via email.
Those funds are not currently provided in the budget for the coming fiscal year, according to Blackwell.
“We just passed our budget; it’s not in there for this next year’s budget,” she said.
Despite this, Blackwell is hoping she can raise the funds privately and get the ball rolling on the project without the strings attached. She partnered with the Joe Moon Foundation to try to recruit private donors to raise the needed project funds.
According to Blackwell, by partnering with a nonprofit organization, the project can be done quicker and cheaper.
“I think that is one way that we can work with private entities to get this done at a cheaper cost,” she said. “It’s a way, also…to get it done quicker. We love our government, but it takes a while to get things done.”
Additionally, Blackwell said, this project is a way to honor the memory and legacy of the late Joe Moon.
“I think this a great way to honor Joe,” she said. “I worked with him as a kid. I remember him at the swimming pool growing up, and I know how much he cared about our town’s youth. I think he would be 100 percent behind this."
Blackwell’s goal is $35,000 for the project, which would cover the cost of repaving, new striping and repaired lighting and fencing.
In the first 24 hours, Blackwell was able to secure individual donations totaling $5,000 toward the project, which gives her hope that the community can come together and fund the whole project.
“We are currently at $5,000 committed in the past 24 hours, which is phenomenal,” she told The News Saturday. “I’m hoping to be at $10,000 at the end of next week.”
Donations are all from individual donors so far, but if any local business would like to be a high-dollar donor, Blackwell welcomes them.
Anyone who would like to aid the cause is encouraged to do so. Checks should be made out to the Joe Moon Foundation. In the memo line, write in “Jefferson Street Park.” They can be mailed to Tullahoma City Hall at 201 W. Grundy St. and put to the attention of Alderman Rupa Blackwell.
For any questions about the fundraising or the project itself, contact Blackwell by phone at 310-749-4625 or by email at email@example.com.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.