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County to take a look at long-range rec plans
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Effingham County commissioners will undertake forming a master plan for future recreation improvements and enhancements, after voting 5-0 Tuesday to enter into an agreement with consulting firm CHA.

Under the contract, the firm will make a long-term plan and offer recommendations, including determining if the current complex on Highway 119 is adequate and worth improving.

“This plan gives us a 10,000-foot view of the county’s recreation infrastructure and planning for the future needs and desires for our facilities,” said county community relations director Adam Kobek.

CHA will develop a questionnaire for the recreation board, hold a workshop with commissioners and recreation board members to determine needs and gauge satisfaction with existing facilities and review existing facilities. The scope of work also includes assessing demographic and geographical information to measure participation and interest in facilities and parks.

“It gives us a 10-year master plan for recreational projects,” Kobek said. “It will anticipate future recreation needs.”

“And this plan includes reaching out to the stakeholders,” added Commissioner Phil Kieffer.

CHA estimates it can have its work completed within six weeks. Its contract is for $24,560.

Chairman Wendall Kessler liked the approach of a long-range plan for recreation.

“If we follow it, I think it will be money well spent,” he said. “We keep spending money piecemeal here and there to do things. It also interacts with the cities to be sure that it is in all-encompassing.”

Commissioners also approved a revised development impact fee study, which includes spending the remaining recreation impact fees that had been collected. Earlier this year, commissioners directed the remaining $231,000 to be spent on expanding and improving recreational facilities.

“Essentially, we are looking at a summary of recreation projects to be funded by impact fees,” said former county public works engineer Steve Liotta. Liotta is no longer employed by the county as of Friday, the Herald learned late Monday afternoon.

The expansion projects will be done at Sand Hill, McCall and Baker parks, including work on batting cages, with lights and covers, and a handicapped-accessible playground at Baker. Work on batting cages at Sand Hill is estimated to be $45,000, up from an original estimate of $37,000.

The county also will explore building new parks and facilities at the former Atlas Sand property and the old Effingham County Middle School. Part of the impact fees to be spent will go toward a new gymnasium but where that new gym will be built has not been determined.

“I’m ready to put this thing behind us,” Kessler said. “I know it’s been a long process.”