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Centers OK'd with no limits
County will revisit how to run them
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Forsyth County News

Other business

Also Thursday, the Forsyth County commission:

• Thinned the animal shelter advisory committee to five people, with Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt no longer a voting member. Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Deblois previously stepped down from what was a seven-member group.

• Withdrew without prejudice a rezoning request for an open storage yard on Hwy. 369 near the Saddle Creek community. The withdrawl, which was at the applicant's request, means the developer can reapply. Commissioners Pete Amos and Jim Boff opposed the measure.

• Heard from two people who asked the commission to reconsider a recent vote by the planning board to allow a business an exception to the Peachtree Parkway overlay requirements.

• Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

-- Alyssa LaRenzie

Two new recreation centers in south Forsyth have been officially approved, but without some previously discussed requirements.

A measure that the centers operate as cost-neutral, which officials passed at a recent work session, did not come up Thursday as the Forsyth County commission voted to build them.

Chairman Brian Tam said the board would revisit how to fund the centers' operations during 2012 budget discussions. The centers are scheduled to open early next year.

The funding for construction is in place, set to come from the 2008 voter-approved parks and green space bond and impact fees, which are charged to developers.

But it's the costs after the centers have opened that concerns the commission.

The work session vote, which was non-binding, stipulated that the centers pay for themselves, which is a model that Tam said has some kinks.

Operating the centers as cost neutral would mean that everything within them must be self-sustaining, rather than sharing equipment or staff from other locations, Tam said.

"We will look at the whole department at budget time so that they can have the ability to pool resources and save costs," Tam said.

Commissioner Patrick Bell was the lone dissenter in the 4-1 vote Thursday.

Bell said he did not want to build the centers without a clear plan of how to pay to run them.

"Right now, with what I'm hearing and what I'm seeing, I'm still not comfortable with spending money," he said. "I support recreation ... but taxpayers have been telling us to quit spending money."

Bell floated the stipulations that the centers be cost neutral and the county solicit proposals from those who may want to operate them.

He didn't offer those amendments Thursday because he said he had already made his position known.

"If the board wanted to rethink those considerations, that's certainly something they could do," he said.

The centers are projected to cost about $430,000 per year to operate, while taking in about $318,000 per year in revenue. That leaves an annual shortfall of $112,000.

Commissioners have considered raising user fees to cover the difference, an idea they say will continue to be explored.

The nearly $9.9 million construction contract for both centers was awarded to Winter Construction.

One recreation center will be built at Fowler Park, which is scheduled to open later this month, near Hwy. 9 and Castleberry Road.

The Buice center will be built on property at Nichols and Old Atlanta roads that the county bought with green space bond funding.

Each center will be about 42,000 square feet and feature two gymnasiums, a walking track, exercise rooms and office space.

Tam emphasized the need for additional indoor recreation space, noting a recent Forsyth County News report about Cumming having to cap basketball sign-ups next season due to growth and space constraints

"There's clearly a need for these centers," he said. "They're going to be valuable amenities for the community."