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Bid process to begin for rec centers
Commission wants to determine costs
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Forsyth County News

Other action

Also at Thursday's meeting, the Forsyth County commission took the following actions:

• Renewed an alcohol license for Chopsticks China Bistro, which rents space from a landlord who is $63,000 behind on property taxes. The business agreed to pay a proportion of the taxes, decided by square footage, to obtain its license.

• Voted 3-2, with Commissioners Brian Tam and Patrick Bell dissenting, to postpone a decision on Lindaman Properties' request to remove a zoning condition that requires a brick front on a planned Montessori school. A local neighborhood organization opposed the request.

• Upheld by a 5-0 vote the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals to grant stream buffer and impervious surface setback variances for Habersham Partners 33's planned strip mall on Buford Highway. Smart Growth Forsyth had appealed the decision to eliminate the buffers on Jan. 21.

• Heard an update from the planning department on projects in 2010. They include state mandates, possible changes to the unified development code, sign ordinance revisions and improving customer service. Commissioners agreed to discuss other possible projects in April.

-Alyssa LaRenzie 

The Forsyth County commission has decided to begin accepting bids on construction of two recreation centers in south Forsyth.

The decision, which commissioners supported 5-0 on Thursday, will help the county determine whether the cost of the projects is feasible.

The county is considering building recreation centers as part of Fowler Park, at Hwy. 9 and Castleberry Road, and on the Buice property, at Nichols and Old Atlanta roads.

The commission approved architectural design funding for both projects in July, but a decision on beginning the bid process was postponed in November.

With the 2010 budget set and the 2011 budget process approaching, Commissioner Jim Harrell said this "just gets us a little closer to decision time on whether we think we can build it and operate it within a reasonable time frame."

Harrell questioned whether the county would have the money to operate the centers, though he hopes the economy would pick up soon.

Balancing the 2009 and 2010 budgets required cuts to various county departments and other measures, including eliminating budgeted vacant positions.

Harrell said the county should definitely get a price on the Fowler Park recreation center, since that was included in the 2007-11 parks and recreation master plan.

Bill Thomas, the county's chief financial officer, said in July that the Fowler center could be funded with money from the $100 million parks and recreation bond that voters approved in 2008, as well as parks and recreation impact fees.

The Buice center would be paid for through a mix of impact fees, 1-cent sales tax funds and parks and recreation bond money, according to Thomas.

The centers are projected to take about 19 months to build.

Residents have shown support for the recreation centers, and Thursday's vote brought a cheer from at least one attendee.

Three speakers let the commissioners know they wanted to see the recreation centers built for the benefit of south Forsyth residents.

Kathleen Kraynick, who has lived in the county for 14 years, said her commute to and from the county's only recreation center at Central Park, off Keith Bridge Road, can sometimes take more than an hour with traffic.

"One rec center for 160,000 simply doesn't account for the needs of the county's citizens," Kraynick said.

She urged commissioners to open the bidding process, since "obtaining bids does not cost the county anything."

Kristen Stevens said the county should capitalize on low construction costs in the current market.

"We have a real opportunity here," she said. "As a taxpayer, I'd much rather save millions now and take the chance of a delayed opening of the recreation centers than wait until the inevitable projected inflation."

In moving forward with the bidding process, Commissioner Brian Tam said he was "cautiously optimistic."

"The rec centers are badly needed," he said. "They will still have to come back before the board for the final bid."