Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Parks agreement with county irks some on Milton council.

City gains parkland, but at cost. by Jonathan Copsey / Appen Newspapers

March 28, 2011

MILTON, Ga. - The council re-approved four agreements with the Fulton County Board of Education that it had previously thought were a done deal.

At issue were the intergovernmental agreements between the city and the BOE over the use of school property as parkland. The city passed the resolutions approving the agreements March 8, thinking they had come to a consensus with the board. It turns out they were wrong.

"We got ready to sign them the next day and we got notes back from Fulton County.... that we needed to make changes," explained City Manager Chris Lagerbloom. "Some of the changes we could live with, some we could not."

The biggest difference was in the level of insurance required by the city and any third-party vendors who may operate on the property.

"So we worked to get to a place where both parties are comfortable with," Lagerbloom said.

The city initially entered into the agreements with the schools within Milton to allow use of the school facilities – especially playing fields – by the public after school hours. Once school lets out for the day, or on weekends or in the summer, the fields would become public parkland. Of particular interest was a two-acre plot of land between Northwestern Middle School and Crabapple Crossing Elementary School. That land would be developed by the city into a park.

The council showed concern over an early termination clause.

If the board pulls out of the contract within two years of entering into the agreement, they will pay $20,000 in fees. The problem is that the city plans to make about $110,000 in improvements to the land for parks. For the county to get such improvements for minimal penalty irked several council members.

"They need more skin in the game," said Council member Karen Thurman. Council member Alan Tart agreed, saying, "We could potentially put $100,000 worth of improvements in the property, and their penalty would be to give us $20,000." After two years, the BOE doesn't have to give the city anything. According to Lagerbloom, the $20,000 penalty was the best the city could get.

"We felt like we wanted to put something in there," he said. "The benefit and the risk is weighted toward this being the right thing to do for the community and our citizens. But we wanted them to have some skin in the game." He also noted that the chances of the county taking the improvements and breaking the contract are slim. The new agreements were unanimously approved by the council.

Also discussed at the meeting: **Stacey Inglis, the city's finance director, was awarded a certificate of achievement for the 2009 comprehensive annual financial report by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. "By achieving this, Stacey makes the city of Milton look really good," said Mayor Joe Lockwood. **The city approved a new official zoning map. According to Community Development Director Lynn Tully, the city has been working off of an official Fulton County map from before incorporation that was hand-drawn. All other maps – including the maps online – are unofficial, even though they may be more up-to-date. By adopting a new electronic map and certifying it on an annual basis, the city can maintain a current map.

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