Whitfield County commissioners approve playground for Riverbend Park

May 10—The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 on Monday to accept a $149,792 bid from Safe Play Solutions of Canton for a handicapped-accessible playground for Riverbend Park.

Commissioner Robby Staten was absent, and board Chairman Jevin Jensen typically votes only if there is a tie.

Jensen called the playground "the last remaining piece of Riverbend Park." He noted that the design of the playground was chosen by a citizens committee put together by the county Parks and Recreation Department.

The park opened last year at 1999 Riverbend Road off the south bypass near Southeast Whitfield High School. In several commissioners meetings since the opening residents have asked when the playground would be installed.

The park's construction was funded with about $13 million from the county's share of the four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2020.

The park has a 30,000-square-foot community center and a FIFA-size soccer field with permanent seating for 1,500. FIFA is the international governing body for soccer. There's a walking track around the field. The field will also have portable seating for another 500-600 that can be moved to the park's other fields if needed. The park has two soccer/football fields and four multipurpose fields.

The commissioners also voted 3-0 to:

—Approve the sheriff's office applying for a $75,000 COPS (Community-Oriented Policing Services) grant. The grant was placed in the 2023 federal budget for the county by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia. It would be used to buy a portable mass spectrometer, which can identify drugs. At the time the grant was announced, Sheriff Scott Chitwood said it could help the sheriff's office keep illegal fentanyl off the street. Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is used to manage chronic pain.

—Accept a de-annexation of property on Sheridan Avenue from the city of Dalton. Developer Bryan Spence wants to build single-family homes on the site. But only one of the three tracts that make up the planned development was in the city. The other two are in the county. The only access to the site is from the parcel that was inside the city.

Then-Whitfield County planner Ethan Calhoun, who handled zoning for both the county and the city, told City Council members in March that when staff looked at the request they believed the best way to handle it was for the two county parcels to be annexed into the city or the parcel in the city to be de-annexed.

But Calhoun said annexing the two parcels in the county would cause an adjacent property to become an island of unincorporated property inside the city, "making that option unviable."

While the city does not typically de-annex property, City Council members agreed this was the best way for this project to go forward.

—Name former Dalton fire chief Bruce Satterfield to the Emergency Medical Services Quality Review Committee.