Council approves task force to create proposal for new Martin Luther King Center in Muskogee

Muskogee officials are looking to replace the city's Martin Luther King Center, and last month the first steps were taken toward a new cultural, community center.

At the Feb. 11 Muskogee City Council meeting, councilors approved a task force to begin developing a proposal for the future facility.

"The Martin Luther Center is a 5,000-square-foot facility we have been utilizing for the last several years, and as time has gone on, we have added more elements, like our after-school program, to the building," said City Manager Greg Buckley.

The first phase of the center was built in the World War II days, according to Derrick Reed, MLK Center Director and city councilor. The building houses the largest after-school program in the city, and also serves as a meeting place for several local organizations and youth programs.

"There is a great need to build something that is adequate for these kids," Reed said. "It has such a impact on the kids, and they deserve to have a nice place."

However, as the center's purpose has been stretched for more organizations and activities, the building's age and condition have begun to show, Reed said.

"The foundation problem is one of the main issues," he said. "Our walls are starting to crack, and that is why we first began looking into getting a new building. We have a flat roof and this is an older building, so when it rains, it leaks really bad."

Officials determined the funds spent patching up the building would be better spent on a new facility.

"The cost for updating and rehabbing structural issues has become quite expensive," Buckley said.

The task force, which currently includes seven members including Reed and council members Randy Howard and Wayne Johnson, will spend the next few months working on determining the resources required to build a new facility and whether or not the building is being being used at its full potential, Buckley said.

"The purposes are not currently laid out," he said. "We have added a piece here and there over the years, so they will be looking at making it more functional, and do we need to make it larger or is 5,000 square feet sufficient?"

Buckley said it is too early to determine the cost of the new facility or where the funds will come from, but he hopes to have a plan in the next three to four months. He also expects to get community feedback in the coming weeks.

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