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County to look at other parks as it plans central facility
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Effingham County commissioners soon may be getting a look at what their next recreation complex could look like.

Commissioners approved a $70,000 contract with CHA Sports for master planning and schematic design of the more than 100 acres the county bought off Highway 21 and Ralph Rahn Road.

“We are very anxious to get started and get moving with you,” Patrick Graham of CHA Sports told commissioners.

Said Chairman Wendall Kessler: “I want to put a lot of thought into it. But I don’t want to drag it out. I want to get it moving.”

How quickly those plans can be drawn up and shown to commissioners could be up to how much input commissioners want to accumulate.

County Administrator Toss Allen suggested taking a couple of field trips to see other recreation complexes.

“You may want some delegation to look at existing fields to see some suggestions of what we like and what we don’t,” Allen said.

Graham said the firm’s plan is to have two workshops, one that would go over what would be offered at the 120 acres of possible recreation complex and second workshop — perhaps as soon as two days following the initial meeting — would allow commissioners to go over possible layouts and alternatives. Graham said the second workshop likely would be the longer of the two.

Allen said if the commissioners want to take a look at other complexes that those trips take place prior to any workshops.

Effingham County Recreation and Parks Director Clarence Morgan said his board was willing to go where asked to look at other facilities.

“It would be beneficial to go, if we could get the time,” he said.

Added Commissioner Phil Kieffer: “It’s the little nuances that make the difference.”

Morgan said arranging a trip to Statesboro’s Mill Creek complex can be done anytime, and there also are excellent recreational complexes in Dublin and Waycross. North Jacksonville also has a fine complex, Morgan said, as does Myrtle Beach, S.C. Since CHA Sports drew up the plans for the Myrtle Beach facility, the company could provide the county with a copy.

The county contracted CHA Sports last year to conduct a look at improvements for the ECRP’s current complex on Highway 119. They grew into a plan for a 15-year look at the county’s recreation needs.

Commissioners also filled the seats on a revamped recreation board. Commissioners voted, by a split decision, in March to change the composition of the rec board from nine members — one for each commissioner district, one for each municipality and one at-large member — to five members. The new board now has one member per each commissioner district.

Robert Hunter has been re-appointed to serve as the 3rd District member, while newcomers Russell Sessions and Roger Scott will represent the 1st and 2nd districts, respectively. Jimmy Seckinger, who had represented the 4th District, and District 2 rep Roy Branson had submitted letters of resignation. The new district lines put Branson in a different district, while Seckinger cited new work obligations that will keep him out of the county for extended periods.

William Floyd, 1st District Commissioner Forrest Floyd’s brother, was appointed to for the 5th District seat. Commissioner Floyd recused himself from the vote. Corey Kessler, who had been the 5th District representative, took issue with the new appointment.

Fourth District Commissioner Reggie Loper recommended Craig Johnson, who had served as Springfield’s representative on the county rec board, to take the 4th District seat. Johnson also was chairman of the rec board when the commissioners voted to restructure its membership.
Loper also took part in the vote for Johnson, who is Loper’s stepson.