COVINGTON -- The city will lend $1.5 million to the non-profit organization heading up the construction of a baseball field for special needs children.
The City Council agreed Monday night to make the loan to the Miracle League of Newton County in an effort to expedite the project.
The $1.5 million was allocated through SPLOST 2011, but because county commissioners opted not to bond any projects, construction cannot begin until the money is in hand. With funds for the Miracle field coming in at around $20,000 a month, if projections hold true, that could mean it will be near the end of the six-year SPLOST before construction could begin.
The total project cost has been estimated at between $2 million and $2.7 million. The Miracle League of Newton County has raised about $225,000 thus far.
According to Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey, the Georgia Department of Corrections has committed to providing inmate labor to construct the facility, and local supporters are worried that commitment might dry up if work doesn't begin soon.
"All it would take is one phone call from the governor to cut out some of these projects they do," Hailey said.
By using inmate labor, the cost of the project is expected to be reduced by between $500,000 and $750,000, Hailey said.
There is also private funding that is pending and may come through if the project gets moving soon, said Dick Schulz, chairman of Miracle League of Newton County.
"Timing is key here. We've turned over every rock we could," he said.
The City Council voted unanimously in favor of providing the $1.5 million loan, but there are still legal hoops to jump through, and approval must be obtained from the Board of Commissioners.
Tamara Richardson, the project consultant, said that until both the city and county officials sign off on whatever legal documents are necessary, nothing will move forward.
The loan was contingent upon payment of interest, but an amount has not yet been determined.
"We are awaiting word back from the city attorney on the interest issue -- which of course has to go before the BOC as well. The Friends of Newton County Miracle League Inc., the nonprofit, has agreed to pay the interest, if need be ... thus not using public (SPLOST) monies for the interest payment," Richardson said.
If the county approves the agreement, it will take 60 to 90 days to complete construction documents and then eight to 12 months to construct the facility.
Located in City Pond Park, the rubberized turf baseball field will also be used for golf, bowling and other sports. The project will also include playgrounds especially designed for special-needs children, though they will be open to all children. Two tee league fields will be created on either side of the Miracle Field, for children ages 4 to 6, who are running out of space on the current fields at City Pond.