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Council members and residents questioning budget cuts focused on North Lafayette

Posted at 10:52 PM, Jul 17, 2020

"I want you to run around in the park that I ran in. Not just that, but there's a tradition of having certain people that work that you know is going to take care of you."

There is sadness but also anger after Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory announced job cuts and closures in the Parks and Recreation Department because of the pandemic.

Next month 37 employees will lose their jobs and four rec centers in North Lafayette will close.

Those rec centers are named for prominent figures in Acadiana, including two African-Americans.

The Heymann Park Recreational Center is named after Maurice Heymann, who pushed and convinced the city to build its first rec center in the 1930's. The Domingue Recreational Center is named for Albert "Mickey Domingue, Director of Parks and Rec from 1946 to 1978. The George Bowles Activity Center was named after the first black man to run for mayor. The J. Carlton James Activity Center's namesake was a longtime educator and civil rights leader. James and his father, J. Wallace James, were the first two black men to register to vote in Lafayette Parish since reconstruction.

Some are questioning why these locations were chosen and are reflecting on their importance to the Northside.

Even during a pandemic, it's clear to see places like the Heymann Park Recreation Center are important to the community.

Here, we found Greg Young barbecuing with a friend in a place he's known all his life.

"We used to throw these parties after school and everybody would come out and get together, you know it was a great time," said Young.

All of the rec centers are in Parish Council District 3, which is predominantly African-American.

"We're four rec centers all in my district. You're telling these kids they have to go find something else to do. You think those crime rates were high from last year? Tell a kid he doesn't have a gym to workout in and relieve some stress and do other things in," said District 3 Parish Councilman Abraham Rubin.

The politicians who represent this area say these are more than just rec centers.

"These centers are like schools. They are the life and blood of the community and to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement," said District 5 City Councilman Glenn Lazard.

"This center kept me out of a lot of trouble. The only trouble I got in was when my dad had to come get me because I was in the gym too long," said Rubin

Residents are hoping something can be done and are questioning why the cuts are focused on the Northside.

"Be fair about not just getting this side getting things missing. We would love to be able to keep this tradition going on but do what you have to do," said Young.

READ MORE on the cuts and the history of the rec centers: Guillory announces eliminating 37 positions in Parks & Rec Dept; closing 4 rec. centers in North Lafayette

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