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Posted: May 7, 2014 3:15 p.m.

District 4 SPLOST park projects get OK

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Attached is a PDF of the resolution the board approved authorizing the creation of more parks in District 4 of Newton County.

District 4 is getting more public parks.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday night to approve moving forward with a list of park projects proposed by District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson; the parks will be built using the $500,000 of SPLOST money approved by voters in 2011 to pay for District 4 “Recreation Projects.”

The vote was a reversal from the Board’s April 1 vote, when Henderson made a motion to approve the list of projects, but the motion died when it never received a second from another commissioner.

No specific land parcels are included in the resolution the board approved that authorizes the spending of SPLOST money – those parcels will be purchased by the county later – but the parks scheduled to be built or upgraded include:
• Nelson Heights Park, next to the existing Nelson Heights Community Center
• Victoria Station neighborhood park
• Dinah Pace neighborhood park
• Park on Oxford Road
• Park in the Trelawney neighborhood
• Upgrade of Trailblazer Park

Commissioners Lanier Sims and Nancy Schulz voted against approving the plan Tuesday night, citing a lack of information, preparation and future oversight. Henderson made a motion to add the discussion to the agenda Tuesday night, a move Sims said was unfair to the rest of the commissioners because it left them unprepared.

However, commissioners John Douglas and Levie Maddox backed Henderson’s request Tuesday night. Douglas said he felt he needed to respect the 20,000 voters in the 4th district who had “already given their seal of approval.

“If you respect what the voters said, you’ll turn the money loose,” Douglas told the board.

Maddox said he felt Henderson knows the citizens’ desires “intimately” after 18 years as commissioner. Maddox also said he felt there was enough oversight, though he also made a suggestion that the Newton County Recreation Commission director be sought for advice on the projects as the commission will likely be in charge of maintaining the parks; Henderson agreed to the change.

Schulz said the board didn’t support Henderson’s request originally, and she saw no reason for the issue to be brought back up again because Henderson didn’t provide any new information or conceptual plans and hadn’t talked to the Recreation Commission for guidance or advice.

For his part, Henderson said the 2011 SPLOST was approved by the citizens, and he felt the board was trying to put roadblocks on the SPLOST projects for his district, when all of the other projects were getting green lights.

“All I’m asking is that you let me lead my people,” Henderson said, noting that we spoke to residents at their homes and at meetings and he listed the neighborhoods where parks were wanted.

The resolution calls for land to be purchased for the parks and for the parks to be developed using the $500,000.

The resolution also deals with a separate SPLOST item approved in 2011 – the $545,000 item for a multi-use community center. So far, $500,000 of that money has been spent to construct the New Leaf Center in the Walker’s Bend neighborhood off Washington Street. According to the resolution, the remaining $45,000 will be allocated as such (the numbers are not listed in the resolution, only the groups; the numbers were listed out at the April 1 meeting by County Attorney Tommy Craig):
• Nelson Heights Community Center – $4,910 computers and audio-visual equipment
• Washington Street Community Center – $4,410 for new appliances and facility improvements
• Garden of Gethsemane Homeless Shelter, off Turner Lake Circle – $12,000 for facility improvements and computers
• New Leaf Center, the workforce development center built in the Walker’s Bend neighborhood - $38,000 audio visual and computer equipment to train for new jobs.

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