A persistent conflict between members of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on where a new SPLOST-funded senior center will be placed is back on the work session agenda for discussion Monday morning at 10 a.m. in the third floor board room at the courthouse.
Following last month's heated discussion on the issue and a subsequent email sent by District 4 Commissioner Ann Jones Guider to the other commissioners requesting the agenda item not be placed on the agenda during the travel-heavy July 4 week, Douglas County Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones asked County Administrator Mark Teal to remove the senior center topic from the previous work session and legislative session until further notice.
Guider's email pointed out, "To put such a controversial item on the agenda around one of our largest national holidays is a direct ploy to defer public input, since many are traveling out of town and are busy with family gatherings. This is a tactic used by politicians to sneak something through without so much public knowledge or input."
Jones' response had the items regarding the senior center, the multipurpose recreation center and "future SPLOST projects" dropped from the work session and deferred until the July 17 meeting.
"I would like for all us to be present to discuss topics of this caliber," said Jones. "Thanks for your advocacy in advance and your concern is duly noted."
Jones later commented through an email, "As chairman, I expect my fellow commissioners to separate emotions from responsibility while serving the 'whole' Douglas County instead of district-specific. Actually, it is not uncommon for new administrations to inherit controversial issues from previous administrations such as the senior center, however, it is my fiduciary obligation to separate the facts from fiction before rendering a response to the citizens of Douglas County.
"Therefore, I will be taking a deep dive in researching a voluminous amount of historical and current data regarding the new senior center to determine the next steps as we move forward. We owe the citizens a transparent and accurate response. Meanwhile, I ask that each of you do your part to consider what is best holistically for the senior citizens of Douglas County."
Late Thursday, Jones announced that her "dive deep research" on the senior center was completed and the senior center is listed as a discussion item for the July 17 work session.
Also scheduled for the work session is the multi-purpose recreation center and future SPLOST projects. A SPLOST update will be given by Rich Boullain of Moreland Altobelli and Associates, hired by the BOC to oversee the SPLOST projects.
Tax Commissioner Greg Baker is also scheduled to present a monthly update on delinquent tax collections. Under business items, the BOC will also discuss adding a full-time position in the tax commissioner's office.
At Tuesday's voting session, a public hearing will be held to consider regulating Old Lower River Road between State Road 92/166 and Riverside Parkway as a "No Trucks' zone.
Where the anticipated new senior center will be located has been the source of contention between some members of the board, which most recently was hotly debated during a recent meeting May 16 between commissioners Henry Mitchell and Kelly Robinson, who represent districts 1 and 2 respectively, and by Commissioner Ann Jones Guider, who represents district 4.
According to Mitchell and Robinson, who represent the eastern portion of the county, it has already been decided that the expected $5.6 million SPLOST parks and recreation project will be located next to a fire station in Lithia Springs, which is in Mitchell's district 1.
Guider, who represents western Douglas County, disagreed.
"I've never heard anyone say where the senior citizens' center was going to be," said Guider. She also suggested a location further west would be closer to more of the county's senior citizens.
Douglas County already has two senior centers, serving two different needs of the aging community.
The Woodie Fite Senior Center is located on Simeon Springer Court off Duralee Lane and Douglas County Senior Services also operates a center for senior citizens that provides transportation, congregant meals and a host of other wellness and recreational services. This center is located on Fairburn Road in the old Douglas County hospital facility.
Both lie north of Interstate 20 and lie within Mitchell's district.
Last August, the Citizen Project Selection Committee whittled down a list of potential projects in the areas of transportation and parks and recreation into a prioritized list of recommendations to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for final determination.
Members of the project selection committee, pulled from all four county districts, were told repeatedly by facilitator Tina Graf during the process that while they were selected from a particular district, the emphasis would be made on a one-county focus.
The committee's priorities went to building a multi-purpose recreation facility that would combine a senior citizens center and gymnasium at a projected cost of $11.2 million. However, this multi-use facility was not one of the staff recommendations, but came as a proposal directly from the selection committee to combine facilities.
Parks and Recreation will receive 17 percent of SPLOST funds, which is anticipated to bring at least $17 million to the table.
It was noted that the recommendations made by the Citizens Selection Committee were not binding; the BOC would ultimately decide how the SPLOST funds are spent from within the three categories of fire/EMS, transportation and parks and recreation.