County, school system wade through pool bills

By Greg Gelpi

The saga continues between the county and the school system concerning the proposed aquatic center.

The Clayton County school system and Clayton County parted ways on the joint venture, leaving the school system with a $500,000 bill and no pool.

The county sent the bill to the school system to cover design and planning costs already spent on the aquatic center. The school system is questioning the costs, though.

"We don't want to get into an adversarial relationship with our school board," Don Comer, the county's attorney said.

The school system is asking for clarification and more information regarding the costs.

"We'll be able to provide anything they want," Comer said. "Anything done design-wise or with planning was done at their request."

School board member Ericka Davis said she hasn't seen the bills and wouldn't comment on whether or not the system should pay the bills until she saw them.

She said that a call to Commission Chairman Crandle Bray to discuss the aquatic center before the split went poorly. His secretary called days later and said to be in his office in about two hours or "no deal."

"We have to get past our historical bad blood," Davis said. "We don't need egos and heavy-handedness to step to the forefront."

She said that she looks forward to the coming election for county chairman.

"I look forward to working with people who are genuinely interested in working with us," Davis said.

Comer said he didn't want to get into what the county would do if the school system refused to pay.

For more than five years, the county and school system had been working together to build the aquatic center on the grounds of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.

The two split ways over rising construction costs.

Similar recreation projects will be placed throughout the county as part of the county's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Designs for the recreation prototypes were presented to the county commission Tuesday, and the commission will consider approving a design this coming Tuesday, its next regular business meeting.

Once the commission selects a design, it will be presented to the public, Bray said.

The plan is to have a recreation center within 15 minutes of every resident of Clayton County, Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer said.

Other areas being considered for recreation centers are Rex, Forest Park, Lovejoy and Garden Walk.

The centers are being designed for youth and adults and each will include an indoor pool, two gymnasiums, general purpose activity rooms, a kitchen and meeting rooms. Two of the designs have proposals for indoor walking tracks.

"We built walking tracks, and they are used constantly," Director of Parks and Recreation Gary Dukes said. "More and more people are getting their exercise through walking. This would allow them to do it year-round."