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County OKs rec projects for last of impact fees

POSTED: March 20, 2014 4:10 p.m.

With input from the count recreation board, Effingham County commissioners have agreed to a list of projects that could benefit from the remainder of recreation impact fees.

Commissioners voted unanimously on an amended list of projects in the impact fee study, including providing $50,000 toward the Atlas Sand property and money for improvements to the McCall Road ballpark. They also agreed to include a handicap-accessible playground at Baker Park.

The county has $231,000 left in its recreation impact fees. The cost of the projects in the impact fee study can exceed that amount.

“The projects can be greater than the amount of funding,” said temporary county administrator Toss Allen. “We just can’t spend money on them if they are not in the study.”

Commissioners have approved using $50,000 of special purpose local option sales tax money toward a study on Atlas Park, to determine what needs to be done to make it usable as a fishing outlet.

“We keep kicking this around,” said Commissioner Forrest Floyd. “The money is there.”

Clarence Morgan, the county recreation director, said there was a lot of discussion at the last recreation board meeting about getting Atlas ready for fishing. Much work needs to be done on the pond, as the sides need to be re-sloped.

Recreation projects funded through impact fees, however, only can be those that improve capacity, allowing for more recreation opportunities or more people to use the recreation facilities. That also meant some wish list items, such as work on the restrooms at the McCall ball park and improved bleachers, couldn’t be included.

“McCall is in bad shape, in my opinion,” said Commissioner Vera Jones.

Commissioner Phil Kieffer suggested new batting cages at McCall, and Morgan said there are a host of improvements needed for the park.

Morgan said restrooms are needed desperately at the McCall park. Any batting cage there also needs to be made of cyclone fence to dissuade vandals who have damaged the park repeatedly, he said.  A batting cage at McCall could cost $8,000-$10,000.

“Over the years, vandalism at McCall has gotten worse and worse,” he said.

Morgan also said the recreation department has other needs.

“We are in desperate need of bleachers at the old middle school,” he said.

The only money spent from recreation impact fees so far, Morgan added, is $481,000 to purchase the Pineora ballpark.

The recreation board also included a new playground section at Sand Hill Park, a covered batting cage with lights at Sand Hill, soccer goals at the old Effingham County Middle School and six new pitching machines. Morgan also said the county currently does not have any handicap-accessible playgrounds.

“We could spend all $231,000 and not have a lot of playgrounds,” he said.

Allen also advised commissioners that the impact fee study will be in front of the commissioners several more times before any money is spent.

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