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Lula to get lease to keep Rafe Banks Park open
City, Hall approved a 25-year agreement
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A locked gate blocks the entrance to Rafe Banks Park in Lula. The park is one of those closed by the Hall County Board of Commissioners due to steep budget cuts. - photo by Tom Reed

At a special meeting Monday night, Lula City Council and Hall County agreed to a 25-year lease agreement to keep Rafe Banks Park open.

The park was closed by the Hall County Board of Commissioners on July 1 — the day after Hall County decided to close four parks — during a city employee cookout.

Earlier that morning, Mayor Milton Turner had called the county commission to see if Lula and Rafe Banks Park were "on the cutting block," he said.

"I was disappointed that we didn't have any prior notice," Turner said. "That was a shocker."

At the special meeting at 6:30 p.m., county Commissioner Scott Gibbs represented Hall County in the decision to lease the portion of the park that includes tennis courts and a walking trail to the city of Lula. The city will be required to show proof of insurance before the property can be leased to Lula.

As city officials worked to reopen the park, they discovered 15 to 16 acres of the park are owned by Hall County.

"We'll be willing to get that immediately signed over to you all," Gibbs said at the meeting.

City Manager Dennis Bergin said the city plans to deliver proof of insurance from the Georgia Municipal Association to Hall County within the day.

He said the city plans to reopen the park this week.

Lula will also have to fund a survey of the land leased, but not before the park is reopened. Some improvements have already been made to the park, including debris removal on the walking trails, mowing, cutting and some graffiti removal, Bergin said.

As the city continues to improve Rafe Banks, it is imperative that officials sign a proper lease, Gibbs said after the meeting.

"They're really just assuming what was already theirs," he said. "They're about to start spending city of Lula money on that, so they have to have a valid lease."

The city is also considering contracting for three or four Hall County inmates to help maintain roadways and other city landscaping, including the park. This contract would cost about $30,000 a year, Bergin said.

Though the closing came as a surprise to Lula, officials are ready to move forward as quickly as possible. "Had we known about this in advance, we probably could've resolved all this without going to the extreme we're doing right now," Bergin said before the meeting. "But we're pretty encouraged."

 

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