The Canton City Council on Wednesday agreed to draft a letter to the Cherokee County government, asserting it plans to stick with the previously agreed upon price for the proposed Etowah River Park and the ball fields adjacent to Kenny Askew Park.
Councilman John Beresford arranged for the council to conduct a called meeting to review new information he’d been given in a meeting last week with county officials. Beresford said he’d been told by the county that the price of both parks increased and the city would have to fork over an additional $700,000 from $1 million it planned to use for extras.
The council and the commission originally agreed that the passive Etowah River Park would cost around $2.1 million and the baseball complex would cost about $2.7 million.
Beresford said the Etowah Park is now slated to cost about $2.3 million and the ball fields are to cost about $3.2 million.
Beresford on Thursday said the increased dollar amount was “casually” mentioned last week as the meeting with the county was wrapping up. He noted he hoped the city’s stance won’t slow down the parks’ development.
“The process has taken so long that I hope we do not have any delays,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Hopefully we can work this through and get projects shovel ready. I look forward with working with the county to make that happen.”
County Manager Jerry Cooper would not comment on the city’s plans to write a letter, but did say costs of projects are liable to fluctuate during the design process.
“As with any project, the goal is to ensure that project costs do not exceed budget,” he added.
Design work for the baseball complex calls for four fields, a 1,200-square-foot concessions area and restroom building, 240 paved parking spaces, bleachers, benches and trash receptacles, a free-standing scoring stand at each field, chain-link dugouts and tournament-level sports field lighting.
The Etowah River Park, which will mostly be passive features, would include a half-mile American Disabilities Act-accessible concrete walking path around multi-purpose fields, one 1,100-square-foot concessions and restrooms building, 207 paved parking spaces, ADA-accessible concrete walking paths and sidewalks connecting to an event lawn and to the concession building.
That park is slated to be developed at the end of Brown Industrial Parkway off Highway 20, near exit 19 off Interstate 575.
The city also had $1 million set aside it could use to add extras such as a bridge over the river, an amphitheater at the Etowah park and playground equipment.
Funds from the $90 million Cherokee County parks bond will pay for the project.
Council members last year decided to halt plans to move forward after the roughly $7 million price tag did not yield what they initially thought would be included in the park.
City leaders also indicated the land was located in a floodplain and flood way, making it an undesirable location for baseball and softball fields.
Cherokee County then stepped forward and offered a proposal to build the baseball fields on roughly 50 acres of land adjacent to Kenny Askew Park off Univeter Road instead.
The council in February signed off on the plan.
Councilman Bob Rush said on Thursday he “shouldn’t be surprised” by the new numbers presented to his colleague.
Rush added he felt the city is getting “shortchanged” when the whole issue was to build a park for the city of Canton.
He added the city felt it was “beneficial” to relocate the ball fields from the passive park to the site off Univeter Road, but he added he feels the ball fields project is “ taking precedent” over the entire project.
“That disturbs me because the whole idea was for all the parks to be for the city of Canton and not just baseball fields for (Canton) Dizzy Dean,” he added. “I feel we are paying for the park bond just like everyone else and I think we should get our (fair) share.”
Councilman Bill Bryan added he feels “disappointed” the cost has increased, and noted he felt the city should push for the development of the Etowah park and allow the county to take the lead in the development of the baseball fields.
He added the county “does an excellent job” with maintaining parks as they have the additional staff.
He also said he appreciates Beresford’s “leadership” on spearheading the effort to get the parks set in stone.
Mayor Gene Hobgood said he supports the council’s decision to draft the letter. Hobgood did note he believed the county would work with the city.
“I think the county will work with us and make the adjustments needed to ensure that both parks will meet some of our recreation needs,” he said.