Miracle League officials were thrilled when the 2011 SPLOST was passed and their project received a $1.5 million boost.
However, the project may still be years off because the Newton County Board of Commissioners is not going to bond out any projects. Therefore, the Miracle League - like every other significant SPLOST project - will likely have to wait at least four years before construction can start.
Assuming a pure pro rata distribution of $57.6 million SPLOST, the Miracle League would collect exactly $250,000 per year.
The project's total cost is around $2 million, but last year the Miracle League secured an offer of free labor from the Georgia Department of Corrections to build the Miracle League's facilities, said project consultant Tamara Richardson, an employee with the Newton County Recreation Commission. That could cut total project costs by anywhere from 30 percent to 45 percent ($600,000 to $900,000).
In addition, Richardson has helped the Miracle League raise about $191,000, and she submitted three more grant applications last week.
"We will budget the project to fit the money we have...SPLOST plus whatever money we have and continue to bring in," Richardson said in an email this week. "(We) arecontinuing to write grants to various funders...so fundraising will continue nonstop!"
Officials are concerned that if the project is delayed too long, the Miracle League may lose its spot on the Dept. of Corrections project list.
Dick Schulz, chairman of the Miracle League's 501(c)(3) committee, requested a timeline of funding from county commissioners at a Monday work session. The board was noncommittal on providing any funding upfront, and, if it did, officials of several other projects, such as the judicial center expansion, would likely request similar treatment.
Richardson reiterated that there are about 2,500 special needs youth between the ages of 3 to 22 in Newton County, who have no "therapeutic recreational program to serve them." The specially designed rubber Miracle League baseball/softball field would draw from a 60-mile radius. It will be located on the site of the Covington Police Department's shooting range next to City Pond Park.
The facility is also planned to include special needs playgrounds for children aged 2-5 and children aged 5-12, in addition to two traditional baseball fields. The special-needs playgrounds will be the only such playgrounds in Newton County, Richardson said previously. They will be different from basic handicap-accessible playgrounds.
While recreation officials wait for a final word about funding, they continue to investigate how best to handle the lead from bullets and shell casings that exists at the shooting range, Richardson said.
"Other than that, grant writing, grant writing, grant writing," she added.
More land donated to cause
In related news, local residents Francis and Catherine Downey have offered to donate 1.2-acres of land, located adjacent to City Pond Park's gravel parking lot, to the Miracle League.
Recreation Director Tommy Hailey said the land could either be used for additional parking space, or tennis courts could be built there, and then the existing tennis courts could be torn down and replaced with parking instead.
There is a vacant house on the site, but Hailey said he would like to tear it down if the county accepts the land.
Before the county accepts the donation, County Attorney Tommy Craig said the county will need to review the property and make sure the county will not take on any burden, such a lien, and do a phase one environmental site assessment.
The board approved allowing the county attorney's office to conduct a title search and arrange for an environmental assessment.