By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County will move forward with the construction of a new soccer complex, putting the new baseball fields on the back burner until more funding becomes available.
The Morgan County Recreation Board provided an official recommendation to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) for the new soccer fields to take precedence over new baseball fields proposed for the property owned jointly by the county and school system at 1811 Old Buckhead Road in Madison.
“Driving our recommendation is the completion of the bid process and the determination that due to the change in circumstance we will not be able to build out the soccer and baseball complex with the monies allocated for the recreation at this time,” wrote Rusty Ewin on behalf of the recreation board. “It is, therefore, our unanimous recommendation that we use the entire $1,974,000 to build and complete the soccer complex, temporary practice/event areas near baseball facility and aesthetics for park entrance. We also recommend that because of the growth and participation in recreation programs, that this park be considered a priority in the coming SPLOST (Special Project Local Option Sales Tax) or through other future financial planning within Morgan County government.”
“In closing, we as a group are excited about the future and it is our desire to be part of a county plan that is progressive and satisfies the quality of life projected by Morgan County. Thank you all for what you do for the people of this county,” added Ewing.
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the recreation board recommendation.
Originally, the county aimed to construct new recreational fields on the land jointly purchased with the Morgan County Board of Education located along East Avenue and Old Buckhead Road. The plan included four baseball fields and four soccer fields, along with concession stands, bleachers, restrooms, lighting, and parking. However, the bids for the project came in higher than expected, leaving the county with only enough funds to cover half of the project. According to County Manager Adam Mestres, the county set aside $1.8 million dollars for the entire project. But cost estimates now indicate that to complete the project in its entirety, could cost up to $3.5 million.
“Just the grading and storm drainage alone came in just short of a million dollars,” said Mestres to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) at the last work session. “The leaves only about $800,000 for the rest of the project, which won’t be enough…So, we think we should focus on greatest need first.”
Lance Alexander, director of the Morgan County Recreation Department, explained why soccer fields should take precedence over the baseball fields at a previous meeting with the BOC.
“Priority is with soccer,” said Alexander. “That’s where the need is right now. We do not have enough fields to handle what we have now. The soccer component would take the biggest pressure off,” said Alexander.
Last April, the BOC unanimously approved an agreement to make the collaborative 153.62-acre land purchase with the Morgan County BOE for the purpose of developing joint-use recreational fields.