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Posted: February 6, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Weather delays Miracle League project

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Abundant rain and, more recently, extreme cold, have set back the timetable back for completion of the Miracle League field project at City Pond Park, but the concession building should be completed within six to eight weeks, with work on the actual fields set to get underway soon.

Recreation officials gave an update to the Newton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, saying the field should be ready for play by late spring or early summer, and the board voted 3-2 to move forward with preparing to bid out the laying of asphalt, which will be the final layer under the actual turf.

The Miracle League field is a smaller, 125-foot artificial turf baseball field designed specifically to allow access for wheelchairs; the Miracle League complex will also include a playground designed for special-needs children, a concession and restroom building, and one 225-foot multi-purpose, artificial turf field. (This second field will be built as funds allow).

While the project has been delayed – grading has been slowed by muddy conditions – Assistant County Manager Tom Garrett, who has worked on the project, said the complex remains on budget, with some areas over budget and other areas set to come in under budget.

The majority of the project will ultimately be paid for using $1.5 million in 2011 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax) funds. A low-interest loan from Newton Federal was secured previously to move the project forward in advance of received SPLOST funds; SPLOST funds will then repay the loan as they are collected.

The building that will house the field’s concessions area and restrooms should be completed within six to eight weeks, Garrett said, based on information from the field superintendent overseeing the project for the Georgia Dept. of Corrections. The corrections department is providing free labor to the project.

As for the actual Miracle League field, the subgrade has been completed, and the asphalt layer will be bid out.

The city of Covington is handling the bidding of the turf. Recreation Director Anthony Avery said New York-based A-Turf was the only company to give a bid that met all of the specifications with a price of $112,486. AstroTurf had a $66,267 bid, but did not meet all of the requirements. The turf is a shorter length to specifically allow wheelchairs to easily move across it.

The turf will be paid for with a $100,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as private donations.

Commissioners Levie Maddox and John Douglas voted against moving forward with bidding out the asphalt. Maddox said he was concerned that four of the major line items were approximately 20 percent over budget (a total of $166,286) and that the project was significantly behind schedule. He added Thursday he was concerned cutting back in some the areas project to be under budget, such as "stormwater and water quality system."

"As passionate as the community is on this project, my goal is to add new energy and bring it to completion so we can see kids smiling when they utilize it," Maddox said Thursday.

Tamara Richardson, the local Miracle League consultant who has led fundraising efforts, said Tuesday the plan is to be able to play a shortened baseball season in late spring or early summer and then have a full Miracle League season in the fall. Special needs athletes wanting to play spring baseball can play at Miracle League field in Conyers.

Richardson also said the project has $175,350 in donations that have not been spent. Most of the donations are earmarked for specific projects, including $41,500 for the special needs playground that will be on site – the playground equipment was already purchased with approximately $144,000 in donations. The remaining money will pay for the surfacing for the playground.

In addition, Richardson said an additional $45,000-$50,000 worth of pledges is still expected to come in.

The project’s total budget is $1.73 million, not including the playground.

To learn more about the project or how to donate to it, contact Richardson at trichardson@co.newton.ga.us or 770-786-4373 ext. 14.

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