Marked Tree Council to donate Carver Gym

Monday, June 20, 2016

After over a year of debate about what to do with the Carver Gym, the Marked Tree City Council approved donating the gym to two Marked Tree natives Monday night.

The council heard three presentations from individuals interested in the gym and voted to donate Carver Gym to brothers Jeremy and Jarmel Bell. The two run Bell's Education and The Quote, a program and nonprofit organization focused on character education and academic achievement.

Jarmel's background is in education. He has been a mathematics instructor, an instructional facilitator, and is a certified anger management specialist. He currently serves the Poinsett County court system in the Turn Around Program, which helps kids with job skills, and teaches anger management classes. His brother Jeremy's background is in fitness. He's a former professional basketball athlete who holds the Jeremy Bell Annual Basketball Camp and has worked with kids through various sports programs such as the Marked Tree Youth Sports League and Team Splash Amateur Athletic Union. Between the two of them, they hope Carver Gym can be a home for a variety of programs related to both academics and fitness.

During their presentation, Jarmel Bell said they hope to renovate the gym and make it into a learning academy which includes a mentoring program, tutoring, and community events throughout the year. They also want to have programs available for adults, such as aerobics and Zumba classes. "We want to have programs for youth and adults to create a Big Brother/Little Sister atmosphere," Jarmel said.

In a letter they sent to the council expressing their interest in Carver Gym, they said they already have supporters willing to donate toward the renovation through their non-profit organization The Quote. Jarmel told the council their goal is to have the gym ready for August 2017 so they could work in unison with the start of the school year.

The other individuals who expressed interest in the gym were Darrell McDonald, who could not attend the meeting and had a letter of intent read in his absence, and Cheree Harris. One thing Harris noted during her presentation was that the gym's foundation is not as stable as it should be. "The condition it is in, it is not a quick-fix job," Harris said. She said she had an estimate done, and everything in the gym needs to redone from the ground up.

The council voted 7-0 in favor of donating the gym to the Bells, with Cleo Johnson Jr. abstaining.

The council also received an update on the improvements being made to Carver Park. Mayor Mary Ann Arnold said both basketball courts have been painted, and they are in the process of ordering new backboards and benches. Louis Bailey with the Carver Gym Planning Committee said that Entergy will be installing the lights for the courts but will not use the pre-existing poles as previously thought due to company policy. The council approved the extra cost of $8 a month--$4 per pole--so the lights can be installed on poles Entergy will provide.

In other business, the council:

*Amended the ordinance regarding the keeping of animals within city limits. The amended section 21 regarding the keeping of small animals and fowl--which states that no one shall keep mammals (with the exception of dogs), reptiles, or fowl--now includes an exception for fowl which are in a pen.

*Heard from Sheri Whitlow regarding large numbers of stray cats being kept outside by a neighbor. Whitlow had previously asked the council about live trapping and relocating them and was told to consult the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. She said the cats are nuisance animals under AGFC's definition and that she was advised it was okay for her to live trap and relocate them. When Whitlow asked, several council members confirmed they felt she was okay to live trap the cats.

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