Dog park shot down over cost

Dan Ray

Dan Ray

CONYERS -- The proposal from Rockdale County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt to build a public dog park appears to have been told sit and stay until the economy gets better following this week's public information meeting.

Both sides on the issue have spoken during three public meetings since February. One group of residents are concerned with the cost to construct and operate a dog park, particularly after the county had to cut spending and reduce work force last year to balance the budget.

Another group of residents believe a dog park will improve the quality of life for citizens and become a popular amenity provided by the county and possibly be attractive to industry looking to locate here.

Nesbitt has been a proponent of the dog park and envisioned a "public/private partnership" that would allow private organizations to take an active role in supporting the park. The county would be responsible for maintenance and enforcement of regulations.

However, Nesbitt said in a prepared statement released by the county Thursday that the project will be tabled for the time being.

"While I fully support the idea of building a dog park, after listening to the community, this is not the ideal time for the county to implement a project of this magnitude," Nesbitt said.

Funding was cited by those at the meeting as a major stumbling block. County officials said construction costs could be covered by SPLOST funds and impact fees, but no proposed cost for the facility was prepared.

Supporters of the dog park pointed to the park at Lenora Church Park in Gwinnett County. Rockdale County Tax Commissioner Dan Ray told the group that funding for parks is done differently in Gwinnett County and must be considered here in discussions on the proposed dog park.

"It's really not a true apple-to-apple comparison," Ray said Wednesday. "Gwinnett provides a full mill on their tax bills solely for parks and recreation and we don't, so it's not a fair comparison."

The county release states a group of citizens supportive of the dog park will explore forming an organization to create the dog park.

Ray said they will do well to contact Rockdale Youth Soccer Association starting out. RYSA started with land donated by brothers Ben and Alec Gross who developed the Fieldstone residential subdivisions along Salem Road.

Ray said the RYSA complex at Old Salem and Flat Shoals roads were built through hard work of soccer enthusiasts in the community and donations.

"The county may be in a position to lease land for something like $1 a year to a group, but all the work to build, maintain and secure the park would have to come from volunteers," Ray said.

Nesbitt gave his support to those citizens in pursuing a dog park.

"Quality of life means different things to many different people. I'm proud to live and serve in a community that embraces the many unique amenities Rockdale County offers," Nesbitt said in the statement. "Designing a dog park for families and pet owners creates another opportunity to add value to our community as well as to the quality of life for our residents."