An update to plans for a northwest Forsyth park, the sale of SPLOST VIII bonds and bids approved for Forsyth County’s sheriff’s office, fire department and Big Creek Greenway were among items up for discussion during a recent Forsyth County Board of Commissioners work session.
All voters were approved by a 4-0 vote, with District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills absent, unless otherwise noted
At the meeting, commissioners approved the sale of an estimated $95 million in SPLOST VIII bond sales after Courtney Rogers, with Davenport and Company, a firm providing financial advisory services for the county, detailed the sale of the bonds, which had gone through the morning of the meeting.
Rogers said falling interest rates, which he said resembled a “double black diamond” ski slope, meant more funds for county projects.
“When we were looking at this originally, our original schedule when we were going to sell back in July, interest rates have fallen 33 to 28 basis points since then for these [next five] years, which means we’re putting another three-quarters of a million dollars into the project funds,” he said.
Following the sale, the county will have about $98.6 million in funding for projects approved by voters in the SPLOST VIII referendum last November, including improvements to the Big Creek Greenway, paying off $100 million in bond debt from the $200 million transportation bond approved by voters in 2014, new parks and recreation facilities, a west precinct for the sheriff’s office and other projects.
Rogers said the county retained its AAA rating, the highest available, from both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s.
Observations from Standard and Poor’s showed the county to be “very strong” in most areas and “strong” for management and budgetary performance. The observation’s debt and liability ranking was “adequate,” the lowest of any of the county’s positions, but Rogers said policies in Georgia skewed that result for all in the state.
Rogers said discussion would be held in coming months about increasing some of those rankings.
“We’re going to come back to you I think in the next month and talk about policies and look at possibly strengthening some of those policies, putting into place some of the things that they look for to help us to get that to a ‘very strong,’” Rogers said.
New plans for Eagle’s Beak Park in northwest Forsyth took a step toward reality, as commissioners approved a new master plan for the park, to apply for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program grant to potentially fund the project and award architectural services for Hayes James and Associates.
Along with tying it with an existing canoe launch, trail parking lot and restroom building, new amenities proposed for the park include:
• A 1.25-mile-long, 8-foot-wide gravel trail;
• Mixed wildflower pits;
• Plaques with educational information and history of the Trail of Tears;
• Two covered sheds;
• Two pavilions;
• An 11,000-square-foot playground area with three shaded structures and benches;
• A little under 12 acres of maintained green space;
• 201 gravel parking spaces;
• Riverview areas;
• Fencing along the roadway.
A big issue with the property is that it lies in a flood plain along the Etowah River, which means the area is subject to not only flooding but the silt that often gets left behind.
The plan was previously approved by Forsyth County’s Park and Recreation Board earlier this month who, after hearing from several speakers at that meeting, asked commissioners to discuss allowing the flying of model airplanes, which was the previous use of the property, at the park.
Flying the planes was not a big part of the meeting’s discussion and the issue with the planes has been covered in a lawsuit.
The previous group that used the field had a lease with the previous property owner that carried over when Forsyth County purchased the land. The lease expired at the end of 2017, as part of a settlement with nearby property owners.
The county purchased the 225-acre property in 2009 with funding from the $100 million bond referendum for parks, green space and recreation that voters approved in 2008.
During the meeting, several bids and approvals to seek grant funding were awarded for various county departments.
For the sheriff’s office, approval was given to apply for the 2019 Byrne-JAG grant for $10,782. If approved, the grant funding would go toward body armor, 38 vests and carrier plates, for school resource officers.
Commissioners approved a $201,840 bid to Fire Training Structures, LLC for the purchase of a burn building and flashover simulator for training purposes for the fire department. County officials said the current burn building can no longer be replaced.
Vertical Earth received a $4.3 million bid for construction of Phases 5A and 5B of the Big Creek Greenway, which will go from Hwy. 20 to the Sawnee Mountain visitor center, about 2.1 miles.
Approval was also given for $356,845 in funding for furniture, fixtures and equipment for a newly leased space at 514 West Maple Street that will be used by the county’s water and sewer, planning and community development and risk management departments, along with a new employee health and wellness center.