McDONOUGH — In what amounted to an hour-long argument, the Henry County Board of Commissioners could not come to a decision on where to build the county’s new aquatic center.
The center is part of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax V project list approved by voters in 2019. A total of $22 million has been set aside to fund the project.
With the help of aquatic consultant Bob McCallister, four potential locations were identified.
♦ Red Hawk Park
♦ Jodeco Road
♦ Mill Road
♦ Willow Lane and Bridges Road
McCallister recommended Red Hawk Park as the most feasible location citing its central location, existing infrastructure and that the property is already owned by the county. The park would allow for a large competition pool, therapy pool and outdoor water park.
He said anything outside that footprint would require additional funding, beyond the $22 million budget.
Objections were immediate on the recommendation.
Commissioner Bruce Holmes said the Red Hawk Park was the last site that should be considered because it’s not centrally located, adding that his interactions with McCallister had not been positive and that he doesn’t “respect his recommendations.”
Commissioner Dee Clemmons said she was appalled at the suggestion of putting an aquatic center so close to the county’s jail.
“You have to pass the jail to take the kids to the aquatic center,” she said. “It’s not a good look.”
Commissioner Gary Barham pointed out that Red Hawk Park is already home to baseball fields used to host tournament games.
Clemmons and Holmes were in favor of the Mill Road site, private property that is not owned by the county.
Clemmons said a buyer is currently under contract to purchase the land with the intent to donate the property to the county to build the aquatic center.
Barham said selecting the Mill Road site without owning the land on the assumption of it being donated is “kinda putting the cart before the horse.”
“This land is not donated yet,” he said.
County Attorney Patrick Jaugstetter confirmed that the county does not hold the title to the property, though he said he has spoken with The Jordan Company, the company that has made the offer to purchase and donate the property. Jaugstetter said he is not part of the purchase negotiation.
Eventually, a vote was taken on each suggested site. All motions failed and no decision was reached.
Board Chair Carlotta Harrell suggested the whole issue needed to be tabled until staff could identify the cost to build at each site.
County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews said actual costs could not be determined until a location was selected.
“At the end of the day you have to decide where this aquatic center goes, but understand until we can determine the location we can’t tell you all what the actual cost is going to be,” she said. “We are wasting so much time because we’ve got to start moving on where this building is going to go.”
It’s unclear when the board intends to continue location discussions and vote on the matter.