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Denny Dobbs Park to open in Spring 2010
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Newton County’s western residents will finally have their own park and should be able to set foot in Denny Dobbs Park in early spring 2010. The Board of Commissioners approved plans for the first phase of the District 2 park on Tuesday night.

"My thoughts are that this park can finally get started after numerous delays and stipulations," District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons said by e-mail. "Newton County’s western end can have a park to utilize for a number of enjoyable activities. This park coupled with the upcoming library will give residents of multiple districts choices to add to their active lifestyles."

Denny Dobbs Park, which will be located on Ga. Highway 212 directly across from Oak Hill Elementary School, has been in the works for 10 years, said Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey. After all initial bids came back over-budget in March, the lowest at $1.8 million, Sunbelt Builders was hired in May to be the project manager in an effort to cut costs and bring future bids in under the $1.48 million budget. The $1.48 million will come from previously collected impact fees that must be used for recreation projects.

Sunbelt made some significant changes to bring the first phase under budget, including centralizing most of the amenities to prevent the need for as many walkways and as much landscaping, Hailey said. The large pavilions were also eliminated and will be replaced by a couple of smaller single-table covered pavilions, Hailey said. The park will still have a baseball field, two basketball courts, playgrounds and a life trail, with has different exercise areas and machines along its path.

"We eliminated a lot of concrete, especially behind the ballfield to prevent people from walking back there and getting hit by a ball," Hailey said. "We also eliminated some of the landscaping. We’ve got something very manageable."

Hailey said that maintenance costs should be 25 percent less than previously anticipated, around $23,000 per year, minus an expected $8,000 in rental fees. Sunbelt President Steve Kapp said Sunbelt is continuing to work with County Architect Debbie Bell to incorporate less expensive native flora that will also require less maintenance.

Kapp said construction will start in two to three months and is expected to take six months to finish.

Hailey said the next steps are to get price quotes for all of the individual aspects of the park such as the grading work, paving, construction of the baseball field and basketball courts.

An agreement has been reached with Southern Playground to provide the playground equipment, including two 2-5-year-old playgrounds, one 5-12-year-old playground, the life trail and a NEOS electronic playsystem for a total of $193,990.

Hailey said he wanted to use recycled rubber instead of woodchips, but the BOC has previously required the project to have a $100,000 contingency, because of the budget shortfall. The rubber surface would have cost about $56,000 more than woodchips so it was temporarily cut out. If there is contingency money left over toward the end of the park’s construction, the rubber surfacing can still be added. Hailey said rubber surfacing lasts for about 10-15 years, whereas woodchips need to be replaced every 2 years, which leads to higher maintenance costs over the long-term.

Commissioners congratulated Hailey and Sunbelt officials after Tuesday’s meeting because of the park’s long history.

"I’m thrilled that the park is being approved," Chairman Kathy Morgan said. "We’ll approve the general contractor at the next meeting when they have the final bid. I think we need a park like this in District 2 - in the western part, period. It’s been a long time waiting. I wish we could do more, but I’m excited to build a park within budget and with all of the facilities that were originally in the design, without cutting a lot of other projects."

Morgan said any projects, like walking trails left out of this phase, can always be included in the park’s other phases if the money is available.

The original master plan of the fully built-out park includes tennis courts, bocce courts, horseshoe pits, a 22.5 acre disc golf area, sand volleyball courts, additional playgrounds, more walking trails and more pavilions with restroom facilities. The park is planned to be built out in three phases.

The park is named after former Georgia State Rep. Denny Dobbs, who served for nearly 20 years, Hailey said previously.