Denny Dobbs Park gets OK from board

COVINGTON - Commissioners gave go-ahead orders for Denny Dobbs Park on Tuesday night.

The park will be located in the Oak Hill area at Richards Chapel Road and Ga. Highway 212.

Commissioners approved a budget of $1.38 million with a contingency of $100,000 for a total of $1.48 million.

"Yes, we are within budget and we do have contingency dollars available," said Steve Kapp with Sunbelt Builders, the project manager.

The park has been redesigned to cut costs. Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey said the park has been condensed, with some sidewalks and a wooded walking trail eliminated.

The initial landscaping plan is being reworked as well to save money, and one large pavilion has been removed from the plan in favor of two or three smaller picnic areas.

Commissioners approved the purchase of playground equipment for three playgrounds - two for ages 2 to 5 and one for ages 5 to 12, for a total of $193,900. The package also includes equipment for a LifeTrail, a series of outdoor exercise/physical activity stations; NEOS, an electronic game in which players can race the clock to slap fast-moving blinking lights; and a wood-chip ground cover. The items are being supplied by Southern Playgrounds Inc. of Marietta.

The park will also include a community field and two outdoor basketball courts.

Hailey initially recommended commissioners approve rubberized matting for the ground cover, saying it is safer and requires less maintenance, which would add about $70,000 to the cost.

There is about $40,000 in the contingency fund, and that should increase as efforts to cut costs, such as the new landscape plan, are finalized, Kapp said.

Commissioners had previously agreed there should be a $100,000 contingency fund, and some said Tuesday they weren't willing to negotiate on that.

"I want to be sure we've got the money to move forward and we've got the money to maintain it," said Commissioner Mort Ewing. "In the eight and a half years I've been here we've only gotten two work orders where we got money back. It usually goes the other way."

Commissioners agreed to wait until the project is near completion and decide then if there is enough money to purchase the rubberized matting.

Maintenance and operation for the park was estimated to top $31,000 per year, minus an estimated $8,000 in rental fee revenues, which would put the cost at more than $23,000. However, with the redesign, maintenance costs will likely be reduced by about 25 percent, Hailey said.

The park is being funded through impact fees earmarked for recreation and greenspace. Those monies must be used for their designated purpose and cannot be used to supplement the county's general fund.

Hailey said he expects to break ground on the park within two or three months.

"We've been waiting on this for 10 years," he said.

The park was initially to be located across the street from its current location and funded through the special purpose local option sales tax. It was moved due to problems with topography and then delayed due to a shortfall in sales tax revenues.

The impact fee lawsuit and downturn in the economy delayed it further, Hailey said.

The park is expected to open in spring 2010.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.