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Decatur Youth Services must vacate building due to health hazard

There's a heating and cooling system issue that could cause a serious health hazard for the children.

Posted: Aug 9, 2019 5:15 PM
Updated: Aug 9, 2019 5:50 PM

The group that helps at-risk kids in Decatur is in a crisis of its own.

The Decatur Youth Services, which was housed in the old Brookhaven Middle School on Fifth Avenue, has been forced to vacate the building.

Kids don't live at this facility, but they do come there in the summer and after school for a variety of programs. The director said he's been prepared to pack up and leave and while he doesn't have a permanent home, he does have a plan.

"For them, it was like an older school. For us, it was the Taj Mahal because now we got space. We can do things," said Bruce Jones.

Bruce Jones is the director for Decatur Youth Services. He says the city informed him about two weeks ago they'd have to vacate the old Brookhaven Middle School because of an issue with the heating and cooling system.

"We're needed, we're respected, and we're making an impact, so when you do that and then you put your faith in it, you don't have a choice. You got to make it happen, you know?" said Jones.

In addition to the poor heating and cooling, Jones told WAAY 31 the school is also built on an old landfill. Now, 3M will test the area, including three other closed locations.

Jones has been leading the center for 25 years and he points to the program's successes in keeping Decatur safe and families together.

"We're not having young people killing each other to the number that it was. They're not in the gangs in the way that they were. So, we've done what they asked us to do. I don't want us to scale back," he said.

For now, they can use the classroom in their youth center for elementary kids. The city has also offered up meeting rooms at the Aquadome recreational center right next door.

The city and school district are now helping them find a gym and a place to house Jones's staff.

"We want to meet those needs and be a resource for them. We do whatever we have to do," said Jones.

Mayor Tab Bowling of Decatur told WAAY 31 the biggest issue is the heating and cooling system, not the environmental issues.

Jones says he'll be fully vacated in the next two weeks. He also said he had plans to work with more agencies and add more staff for next year, but those plans are now up in the air.

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