DYS preparing for temporary move during Carrie Matthews renovations

Bayne Hughes, The Decatur Daily, Ala.
·4 min read

Mar. 5—Decatur Youth Services is preparing to temporarily move out of Carrie Matthews Recreation Center with renovations expected to begin in roughly a month.

City Engineer Carl Prewitt said Marc Goldmon, of Matheny Goldmon Architecture of Huntsville, is working on the plans for renovation of the Northwest Decatur center. The City Council in September approved hiring Goldmon for $122,500.

Repairing the Carrie Matthews facility, which Prewitt described as a complete interior renovation, is budgeted for no more than $1.8 million with the funds coming out of the city's unassigned fund balance in its general fund. Any additional needed funding would have to be approved by the new City Council, he said.

Currently the facility is being used primarily for tutoring.

City officials have been concerned for several years that the center's floors, particularly in the gymnasium, were settling and they feared that could be a safety issue. The center is built on property that was once a sawmill and later became a garbage dump.

Engineers determined that water running under the building might be contributing to the settling of the floor.

Youth Services Director Brandon Watkins said Wednesday that he and other DYS personnel met with Goldmon three times in recent months to discuss the remodeling plans that will focus on the interior.

"The first thing (Goldmon) wanted to find out is where the water is running under the building," Watkins said.

Watkins said they talked with the architect about what DYS needs. The interior will be gutted, starting with the removal of all of the center's floors. They will replace the old tile gymnasium floor with a wood floor. The gymnasium will also get new lighting, scoreboards and benches.

They're planning to take the shower out of a seldom-used dressing room and turn the room into a meeting room for basketball teams prior to their games, Watkins said.

The kitchen will be widened with two stoves and a table for a culinary arts program. One room will become a science, technology, engineering and math room while another will be a recording studio.

Watkins said they're already using what used to be a weight room as a video-gaming room.

He said the familiar light blue paint of the center's exterior will be replaced with neutral colors "that are more professional."

Carrie Matthews is the only location in use right now by DYS since the old Brookhaven Middle School building is locked up tight and they're not using the Aquadome's meeting rooms.

However, they won't be out of business when Carrie Matthews closes in about a month. The construction is expected to last almost a year even though Watkins said the architect advised the center will be ready for youth basketball season in 2022. The popular basketball league was shut down this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. — Temporary space

The Decatur Housing Authority agreed to let Youth Services use a building it has at 1406 Sixth St. N.W. during the renovations free of charge.

"It's in good shape, but we'll probably have to do some painting and other stuff once we get over there because it hasn't been open in a while," said Tatiana Lucas, DYS education coordinator.

DYS has had to keep its programs at Carrie Matthews extremely limited because of the pandemic. Each day Sunset Housing Project has three to five resident children whose parents chose to keep them home from school because of COVID-19 come to the center for their virtual classes.

"It really helps them to have an adult around to keep them focused and help when needed," Lucas said. "Their grades have really gone up and up since they started coming here."

The traditional after-school tutoring starts around 3:30 p.m. as kids arrive from school. Watkins said pandemic requirements force Youth Services to keep numbers at no more than 30 children a day with eight to 10 students "spaced at least 6 feet apart and wearing masks" in each room.

While the basketball league was canceled, DYS is planning a PALS coed youth baseball league for ages 4 to 14 this spring at the Cashin Wheeler baseball field. Registration will be from April 5 to May 10 with the games starting in June. Coaches, scorekeepers and umpires are needed and should call Rico Pickett Sr. at 256-309-7603 if interested.

bayne.hughes@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2432. Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.