County, schools close to building aquatic center

By Justin Reedy

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners and county Board of Education have nearly worked out the details on building a shared public aquatic center just south of Jonesboro.

The county and the school board have agreed to split equally the costs of the nearly $8 million project, officials said, but are still working out the details on how to split the cost of operating the facility after it opens.

The school board's attorney has a draft of a contract dealing with operating costs and procedures that the county drew up, according to Crandle Bray, chairman of the commission. Like the construction agreement, it calls for a 50-50 split on the costs, Bray said, but the final split won't be determined until both sides finish negotiating the contract.

"As soon as the school board approves it, we'll let the contract for construction," Bray said.

The contractor could be selected later this summer, Bray said, and construction should take about one year.

During the high school swimming season n typically the winter months n all of the county's public school swim teams compete at the Forest Park Recreation Center pool. This new center will give the county another destination for the school's swim teams, as well as provide another recreational opportunity for local residents, officials said.

The facility will include an Olympic-size swimming pool, and will be located on Tara Boulevard just south of Jonesboro, near the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.

The county commission's share will be financed by interest accrued from the 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST, which paid for the construction of the Justice Center, according to Wade Starr, Bray's assistant. The school board's share of the funding will come from a SPLOST passed in 1999 to finance school construction and other capital improvements.

Giving the county's 50,000 schoolchildren another place to practice for swimming competition is an important thing to do, officials said.

"I've been an educator in this county since '74, and we've needed an aquatic center since probably '64," said Acting Deputy Superintendent Bill Horton. "We're ready n we've needed it for a while."

"Clayton County probably has more state finalists in swimming than any other school system, even though they only have one place to train," Bray added. "We're late in the game for an aquatic center. It's something needed."