07/20/04 — Game-room expansion plan irks neighborhood advocates

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Game-room expansion plan irks neighborhood advocates

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 20, 2004 1:57 PM

A request Monday to the City Council to expand a game room raised concerns about a lack of recreational opportunities for youth in the Slocumb Street area.

Hilda Hill asked for a special use permit to put two more pool tables and two more video games in a game room she runs on the west side of South Slocumb Street between Westbrook Road and Seymour Drive.

The city requires a special use permit for a place with more than four games.

No alcohol is served at the game room, and the hours of operation are from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

"We do have an existing game room, and we're getting the kids out of the street," said Ms. Hill, "but we need more games for them."

Danny Roseborough opposed Ms. Hill's request, saying it would exacerbate an existing problem in the area. Roseborough is the director of Eastern Carolina Regional Housing Authority, which manages the Seymour Johnson Homes public housing complex.

"I applaud her for trying to bring recreation to the area, but we don't think that's the way to do it," he said.

Roseborough said the area had a lot of crime, and that the game room would cause more problems because of the people it was attracting.

"Less than 5 percent of the population at Seymour Homes list a male as the head of household," he said. "Yet there are always men walking around that area."

The game room, which he called a pool hall, would give the men another place to hang out.

"Let's not provide another training ground for delinquency," he said.

Councilman Charles Williams asked Roseborough what ideas he had for youth in the area.

Roseborough said that perhaps building a community facility would help provide a safe environment.

Councilman Chuck Allen told Roseborough that the police hadn't received any complaints about the game room.

Roseborough said that the place had only been open about two months, but that "within six months, you'll have a problem."

Ms. Hill's son, Greg, disagreed.

"Me and my mom run what he's calling a pool hall," he said. "He's got problems in his projects, but that's not my problem."

Hill said that the kids come to his house to ask him when he'll open the game room.

"You can go in there any time, and there are four to six kids waiting for a pool table," he said. "That's why we needed more."

Hill said the ages of the children coming to the game room ranged from around 4 to 15.

That didn't sit well with city resident Mary Rhoe.

"That's my area and that's the area I want cleaned up," she said. "From the back gate to Elm Street. A 4-year-old should be home with his mama, doing his lessons. He shouldn't be over there playing pool."

Ms. Rhoe said that all the buildings in that area should be torn down.

Shirley Edwards said that she had come up with a proposal 12 or 13 years ago to help that area, but couldn't get the city interested because it wouldn't serve all the people.

"The final analysis was, the city didn't support it," she said.

Roseborough told the council that grant money was available, but that the housing authority couldn't apply for it. He said he would work with the city or religious organizations on applying.