West End community keeps Power Cross ministries at arm’s length
By Jessica Coates
SALISBURY — A Statesville-based ministry called Power Cross had been planning to expand to Salisbury, beginning July 1 with Hall’s Gym and Miller Recreation Center.
But a series of interactions with residents of the West End community have left the ministry questioning what to do next.
West End resident Al Heggins said in an interview Wednesday that her objection is not about Power Cross but the way its expansion unfolded.
“It just has the appearance of the city working with Power Cross to allow them to use the facility in the West End without allowing (West End residents) to be a part of it,” Heggins said.
Heggins said that when she read the proposal Power Cross submitted, she was surprised to see that its program was set to begin July 1 because Power Cross had set a public meeting to discuss the expansion for June 29.
“The dates seemed to be so closely aligned,” Heggins said. “I was worried about not having a chance to engage with the city about whether this is an appropriate use.”
Power Cross co-founder Jeff Storment said in an interview Wednesday that community reaction has been “extremely disappointing for us.”
“It’s like a slap in the face,” Storment said. “We are simply trying to provide kids with an outlet other than what they’re used to.”
Storment said Power Cross spent three weeks looking at potential sites before deciding that Hall’s Gym and Miller Recreation Center best fit its needs.
Power Cross had planned to lease the two locations for a year while the ministry renovated a permanent location — potentially the old Lincoln School property.
The lease for Miller Recreation Center and Hall’s Gym — which are both in West End — would have been for four days a week and two days a week, respectively, for four to five hours each day. Storment said he still wants the facilities to be multiuse.
About a month ago, Storment said, the ministry started hearing from groups that said they were not interested in having Power Cross use those facilities.
“They said they didn’t want an outsider coming in,” Storment said.
City Councilman Kenny Hardin said in an interview Wednesday that reaction from some West End residents is partly due to the already poor relationship that he says the city has with the black community.
“The relationship between the city and the black community is extremely poor. After what happened weeks ago, there were no attempts at reconciliation. And now the community is saying, ‘Now you’re coming in the back door and doing this?’”
Hardin was referring to a police officer who on June 7 was cleared of all charges in the shooting death of Ferguson Laurent during execution of a search warrant.
The June 29 Power Cross meeting “felt like a formality,” Hardin said. “Even if the community resisted, if they’ve already submitted a proposal, a meeting is not going to matter.”
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Karen Alexander said Power Cross is a private entity and that its expansion proposal was unsolicited.
She said the city does not own the Lincoln School property and would therefore not be involved with Power Cross’ potential purchase of the property.
Storment said that because of the strong reaction in the community, Power Cross is no longer requesting to lease Miller Recreation Center and Hall’s Gym. Instead, the ministry will meet at Salisbury High School for the foreseeable future, beginning at 4 p.m. today, he said.
The program is for boys only, but Storment said that boys of any denomination are welcome.
Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.