Aquatic center builder on agenda

By Ed Brock

Among the many items on the agenda for tonight's Clayton County Commission meeting will be a recommendation for a builder for a proposed aquatic center in south Clayton County.

Missing from the agenda will be consideration of a revision of the county's current policy regarding county employees running for county political office.

During the meeting that is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the county administrative offices in Jonesboro, Program Manger Joe Lee of Lee Design is expected to recommend that the commission use Turner Construction Company as the construction manager at risk for the aquatic center. If the commission approves Lee will then negotiate the contract with Turner Construction and bring that contract back to the commission for approval.

Work on the $8 million facility, a joint venture between the county government and the Clayton County school system, is supposed to begin soon. It will be built near the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Tara Boulevard south of Jonesboro and will be open area residents and swim teams like the 40-member team Tim Schmidt coaches at Lovejoy High School.

Currently the team has to take a 45-minute bus ride to the Forest Park Recreation Center to practice in the pool there that they must share with other high school swim teams and a Forest Park-based club team as well.

"The thing we'll benefit from the most is that we'll be able to spend more time in the pool and be able to practice more," Schmidt said previously. "When we go up to Forest Park we spend more time on the bus than we do in the pool."

Construction of the center should take about a year and the cost will be split evenly between the county and the school system. The county will get its share from interest accrued on a 1-percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, that paid for the construction of the Banke Justice Center. The Board of Education will get its money from another SPLOST passed in 1999 to finance school construction and other capital improvements.

The commission had initially planned to consider a new political activities policy for its Civil Service registered employees but that decision, which could affect at least two county police officers who are running for Clayton County sheriff, has been put off.

Currently the policy requires registered county employees to quit before running for county office, but the commission is considering giving the employees the option of taking an unpaid leave. Georgia state Rep. Victor Hill, D-Riverdale, who is also a Clayton County police detective, and Patrolman Joe Mack Eckler are running for sheriff.

"We don't know what we're going to do next," Commission Chairman Crandle Bray said. "It might (be passed) or the existing policy will stay."

Hill has told the commission that they should allow him the same treatment that he says 11 other county employees got previously when they ran. Those employees were allowed to keep their jobs so long as they campaigned in their off hours, Hill said.

Hill had planned to speak again at tonight's meeting but now he is not on the agenda.

"Let's just show faith in all the commissioners and hope they do the right thing," Hill said.