Dalton City Council agrees to move money to stormwater, recreation projects

Nov. 14—City of Dalton officials have agreed to redirect $6 million from a 2020 bond issue that was originally allocated for a proposed aquatics center to recreation and stormwater projects.

City Council members informally agreed to the proposal when they met as the Finance Committee last week. The council members will have to vote to approve any specific contracts.

Citing soaring construction costs and large projected operating deficits, the council members voted in October to cancel the aquatics center. The city had budgeted $13 million for the project, with $6 million coming from bond funds.

City Administrator Andrew Parker said that bond money can only be used for recreation, stormwater control and economic development projects.

Parker said he and staff had met to discuss the city's proposals for projects to be funded by a proposed 2024 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

"We looked at what projects might not make the final cut on the SPLOST and needs we might be able to meet earlier than the SPLOST if we reallocated this (bond) money," he said.

He said the group agreed the city should allocate $1.5 million to renovations at Heritage Point Park.

"It needs fence replacement (at the baseball/softball fields)," he said. "The fencing is the original fencing. It will help us stay in good standing in competition for baseball events, softball events. Our field length is not quite up to spec. We can overcome that by adding height to the outfield fence. We also need to renovate the restrooms and concession stands."

He said this was in the city's initial SPLOST proposal but would be pulled out.

He said staff also agreed the city should spend $1.5 million to renovate Al Rollins Park. He said needed are new synthetic turf fields and fencing and updates to its restrooms and concession stands.

Parker said staff also recommended spending $1.5 million for relining stormwater pipes to keep them from failing.

"We've identified neighborhoods that have one way in and one way out with a metal pipe underneath," he said. "If those pipes failed, residents would lose access (to their homes)."

Part of that $1.5 million would also be used for design of a small park that would contain stormwater control features and also have some commemoration of Dalton's Jewish community and its contributions to the city and the floorcovering industry on the site of Temple Beth-El on Valley Drive.

The final $1.5 million would be used for stormwater detention facilities on Beverly Drive and Vernon Avenue.

"These would help mitigate flooding on Crown Creek," he said. "The great thing is that the city already owns the land."

The council members had been planning an aquatics center near the Dalton Convention Center that would have a 50-meter, competition-sized swimming pool as well as a 25-yard by 25-yard multipurpose pool that could be used for physical therapy. The pools would have been used for city recreation programs as well as for meets and practices for local schools. The only competition-size pools in Whitfield County are at Dalton High School and the outdoor pool at the John Davis Recreation Center, which are shared by all the high school and middle school teams in the county.

Inflation caused the projected cost of the project to soar to $23 million from the $13 million that had been budgeted for it.

In addition, a business model study by the consulting firm Counsilman-Hunsaker found the aquatics center would have an annual operating cost of about $2 million. The study found the city would only receive about $1 million a year in revenue, leaving it to cover the remaining costs out of its operating budget.