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Some fret that building North Hall, Cool Springs parks could stretch staffing

POSTED: May 18, 2009 11:19 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

East Hall Park, similar to a park planned in the North Hall area, includes a community center with basketball courts, exercise equipment, two baseball fields, a track and tennis courts.

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Now on track to build two parks, Hall County officials differ on whether the county is up to the task.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to go forward with developing a 60-acre athletic complex and community center in North Hall.

The commission also previously approved building a park on land donated to the county by Cool Springs LLC.

Now, both projects are on the fast track and Assistant County Administrator Phil Sutton said construction could begin in less than a year.

"It’s a lot of work but we’ll get it done," Sutton said. "It may make it simpler actually."

Sutton said aside from a few complicated features, the construction of the parks could be done in two to three years.

Due to the economy, the county will be able to get better prices for construction, allowing more work to be done with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars, he said.

Sutton said funds for the Cool Springs Park, estimated to cost about $4 million, will come from the remaining $2.8 million of SPLOST V funds reserved for a North Hall park and impact fees.

The plan for the park includes skateboarding facilities and a retention pond. Plans for the North Hall park will be based on the East Hall park and will include gym facilities and ball fields. The park will likely cost $12 million, paid for using $11 million of SPLOST VI funding reserved for a North Hall park and interest earned on SPLOST V.

Larry Poole, chairman of Hall County’s Parks and Leisure Services Board, said he is nervous about the strain new parks would add.

"The ongoing year-to-year operations has become more of a burden on our parks and leisure staff," Poole said. "It’s going to require some level of additional staff."

Poole is also concerned because the Cool Springs Park was not part of the board’s master plan.

"The parks board doesn’t have very much knowledge of the (Cool Springs) park," Poole said. "We made a request that we be put on at least a temporary hold ... to my knowledge we haven’t had a response."

Murrayville resident Robbie Robison spoke up at the commission’s last meeting about a community center in the North Hall area.

He said the nearest proper facilities for baseball, football and basketball are a 30 to 40 minute drive away at the East Hall Community Center.

He said he became concerned plans for the community center would be postponed again after he heard about the Cool Springs park.

"That (North Hall) park’s been on the master plan for sometime," Robison said.

Commissioner Steve Gailey said he has been searching for property for a North Hall park for about a year.

Gailey, who represents North Hall, said despite fears, he believes the community center in his district will be completed regardless of other projects.

"The Marina Bay park doesn’t concern me whatsoever," Gailey said.

But Commissioner Ashley Bell said he is nervous that not enough SPLOST revenue will be available to complete the projects at the same time.

"The last thing we want to do is bite off too much," Bell said. "I think both projects can be funded but I’ll always be leery about voting to reserve X amount of dollars if we don’t know how much it’s going to cost."



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