PTC recreation, senior center projects headed toward ballot?

Tue, 06/26/2007 - 4:34pm
By: John Munford

The Peachtree City Council is heading toward a decision to let voters decide if they want to pay for a $3.6 million Astroturf multi-purpose sports field area and an expansion of the city’s senior citizens center.

At the June 21 meeting, council asked city staff to get with supporters of the Gathering Place expansion to determine which of the two options they will seek to have voters approve. One option is for a 6,725-square-foot expansion at $1.36 million and the other is for a 11,372-square-foot expansion at $2.19 million. A decision must also be made whether or not to include a commercial kitchen, which would add to that cost.

The sports field area — part of the Ga. Highway 74 South sports complex — would include two new fields, several practice areas, parking and a combined restroom, concession and scoring building.

Council is expected to vote at its July 19 meeting to officially list the items on the ballot for the November city election. Each project would be listed separately on the ballot.

Mayor Harold Logsdon said Thursday that he didn’t have a problem with voters making the final decision on both projects. It’s obvious the city won’t have money in its regular budget in coming years to do either project, he added.

Councilwoman Cyndi Plunkett noted that residents need to know that if they approve the bond items, the city will need to raise additional funds in property taxes to pay for the facilities’ financing and operating costs.

If the smaller expansion for the Gathering Place is approved, Director of Leisure Service Randy Gaddo is suggesting that at least one full-time staffer and two part-time staffers be hired in addition to two part-time maintenance positions. If the larger expansion is approved, Gaddo is recommending hiring an additional full-time maintenance position.

The multi-purpose sports fields would increase the property tax bill $7.31 for each $100,000 of a home’s fair market value, according to city estimates. Depending on the option chosen for the Gathering Place, the cost will range between $5.57 and $8.88 for each $100,000 of a home’s fair market value.

Council also asked staff to look at financing the project over 10 years instead of the 15 years proposed initially by city staff. In the 15-year financing plan, it would cost the city $349,000 a year for the sports fields and between $269,000 and $430,000 a year for the Gathering Place expansion, depending on the size of the project.

Those payments would increase significantly if the financing were shrunk to 10 years, but the city would also pay about $500,000 less in interest on the projects, city officials estimated.

The multi-purpose sports fields would have a special drainage system underneath that will allow them to be used in the rain or soon after a rainstorm, which will make it easier to attract tournaments, Gaddo said. It would be located at the city’s baseball and soccer complex on Ga. Highway 74 South.

The Astroturf — an artificial surface — will likely have to be replaced every eight to 10 years, but the city currently spends about $160,000-$200,000 a year replacing turf on Riley Field because of the wear it gets during football season, Gaddo said. By contrast, it will cost about $629,000 to replace the Astroturf, Gaddo noted.

Gaddo is proposing to have the city’s soccer and football programs use the multi-purpose field, which would be impossible if the field were built with regular grass, he noted. Regular grass needs time to “recover” after a sports season ends, and there is no such luxury between football and soccer season, he noted.

The football program has 520 players and another 80 cheerleaders, officials said. It is estimated that less than half of the participants live outside Fayette County.

Moving the football program to a new field would also create room for the popular youth lacrosse program, which would be located at Riley Field.

Either of the Gathering Place expansions would add a new entrance area for the building and also additional parking on the right side of the building, including some spaces for golf carts. The smaller option would add a large programming room that could seat 150 people or be separated into three smaller rooms with portable screens, Gaddo said.

The larger option would add five multipurpose rooms, with perhaps a dedicated exercise room, a dedicated game room, and a room for card playing that could remain set up that way, Gaddo said.

Traditionally the Gathering Place has not charged a rental fee for non-profit groups using it for meeting space. But Plunkett noted that if those groups asked for a picnic pavilion or a sports field, they would pay for that privilege.

Gaddo said the city could increase rental revenue for the Gathering Place by allowing alcohol to be served.

Several residents spoke in favor of the need for the expansion of the Gathering Place, noting that, among other things, the kitchen is too small to serve the facility and the seniors feel they are being “pushed out” of the facility in favor of other groups.

But one citizen said he hoped citizens would vote down both the Gathering Place expansion and the multi-purpose field.

Tim Lydell noted that the city still faces millage increases in future years, and the projects, if approved, would require an additional tax burden on the city’s property owners.

Lydell said the city’s police and fire departments are underfunded compared to other cities of similar size, yet the recreation department is more than fully funded using the same comparison.

“In fact we have the very city services that protect our life, put a fire out in our house, and we want to go build a football field? I don’t understand that,” Lydell said.

A letter to council from the city’s Senior Adult Council noted that the group’s top initiative is the expansion of the Gathering Place.

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