Apr. 8—Plans to renovate the aging John Davis Recreation Center are on hold as the city of Dalton moves forward on other recreation projects such as an aquatics center planned for property near the Dalton Mall and new soccer fields, according to Mayor David Pennington.
"It isn't that we aren't going to do that project (the rec center)," he said. "But these other projects are a higher priority."
Council members asked City Administrator Jason Parker and Parks and Recreation Department officials in March 2020 to take another look at the rec center project after all of the bids came in over the $8.5 million budget. At the time, the plan was to construct a new building nearby in James Brown Park, but council members asked that Parker look at alternatives, including remodeling the existing building.
Dalton Communications Director Bruce Frazier said the plan now is to renovate the existing building, not to tear it down and replace it.
In the interim, Hull Property Group, the Augusta-based developer that owns the Dalton Mall, donated to the city the lease on 8.38 acres of undeveloped land near the AMC movie theaters where the city plans to build an aquatics center. The remainder of that lease is 57 years.
"That is really our top priority right now," said Pennington.
City Council member Gary Crews agrees.
"Now, once we have that under construction or at least have the plans finalized and moving forward, then we will turn to some of these other projects," he said.
City officials are still finalizing the design of the aquatics facility. They project it will cost between $10 million and $15 million. It will be funded, at least in part, from a $21 million bond for capital projects the City Council approved in March.
City officials planned to use funds from the 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to fund the new rec center, but Pennington said with plans for that facility being scaled back they may be able to use some of that money to help pay for the aquatics center.
"That money was just earmarked for recreation, so that shouldn't be a problem," he said.
Recreation Department Interim Director Greg Walker, who took over after previous director Mike Miller retired on Dec. 31, 2020, said the department saw three "30 or 35-year employees" retire at the end of 2020.
"Right now, I've been focused on getting my sea legs under me and on the day-to-day operations of the department," he said. "But I'm sure at some point we will be taking a look again at the John Davis Center."
Walker said he has also been focused on working with the Public Works Department on the new soccer fields that will be funded with $2.675 million from the 2020 SPLOST.
"We had several turf presentations (Monday), and we are getting ready to see what we've got, and then I guess we will all score the different bids," he said. "That's one of my top priorities now. There will be three, two at Park Creek School/Heritage Point Park and one at Dalton Middle School. We are partnering with Dalton Public Schools. We are going full-steam-ahead on that."