By Joel Hall
Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell promised citizens in January he would begin work on two additional recreation centers by the close of February -- the fourth and fifth of the six included in the 2003 SPLOST.
This week, the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department announced the site for an additional recreation center in District 3, represented by Commissioner Wole Ralph, and said land acquisition for another center, in District 4, represented by Commissioner Michael Edmondson, is underway.
On Monday, the department said one of the new centers will be built at 1935 McDonough Road in Hampton, at the Gerald Matthews Sports Complex. The site, however, will come up for formal board approval at the next BOC meeting on March 4.
"There will be public discussion by the board on the fourth [of March] to discuss the additional details and necessary due diligence," said Detrick Stanford, director of Parks and Recreation. "Commissioner Ralph has selected this as a site," said Stanford. "The resolution on Tuesday night will determine whether the board will move forward."
Ralph, however, said Tuesday night will be his third attempt to get the BOC to vote in favor of funding the Gerald Matthews Sports Complex at the suggested site.
"That site was the original site in 2003 in the SPLOST booklet," said Ralph. "It is the only site." Ralph said two previous proposals to fund the center at the McDonough Road location were rejected.
"The issue has always been ... allotting the funds to begin the center," said Ralph. He said he has been "frustrated" in the past by what he believes is "an effort to stall" the creation of six recreation centers.
"The chairman said that he'd have two centers by the end of February," said Ralph. "I'm at least trying to make sure that we are able to start one by the end of March or early April," he said.
"Mr. Ralph picked his spot out, and I told [Stanford] to go ahead," with moving the project forward, said Bell. "Had Mr. Ralph picked this site and put his finger down a month ago, we would be much further on this."
Bell said the issue of funding the recreation center only "came up once," and the reason why the motion did not pass was "because it was not his [Ralph's] turn.
"We needed to have the money in place to build Mr. Edmondson's [center] and he was next in line," to have a recreation center built in his district, Bell said.
Bell said the location of the recreation center in Edmondson's district was not being disclosed because of a "potential real estate purchase issue." However, he said a vote for the District 4 recreation center would be included in the resolution on March 4.
"What happens when people find out we want some property in a certain place, the price goes up," said Bell. However, "preliminary work is being done on both projects. We are on the move. I promised we would be moving forward by the close of February and we are."
Edmondson said he has not yet made a recommendation to the BOC as to the location of a recreation center in his district. However, he said he was working to find an area at least seven acres in size with optimal location for District 4 residents.
"I think we're doing our homework," said Edmondson. "From the sites we have identified, we have narrowed them down to a short list. The challenge is finding an area of land that would be of best use to the kids."