The park, slated to be built along the Etowah River at the end of Brown Industrial Parkway, will be funded primarily through $3.14 million from Cherokee County’s park bonds.
The city will add $300,000 from stormwater funds and $118,000 from SPLOST funds to finance the park’s construction.
Ben Key, a member of Canton’s stormwater advisory board, spoke during last week’s City Council meeting against using surplus stormwater funds to pay for part of the park’s development, saying the spending isn’t necessary.
“You want $400,000 to add a playground and a footbridge. This is not something that has to be done. If you did not choose to do this, the total city cost would be zero,” he said.
Bids up for the City Council’s approval included a base bid for the park and several alternates, including a playground, a footbridge, a roofed amphitheatre, trails and other amenities.
“They seem like great additions, but you’re taking money pledged to improve stormwater. Isn’t there a recreation fund, or SPLOST?” Key asked.
Council Member John Beresford said misinformation about the use of stormwater money is “rampant.”
Beresford highlighted stormwater-related projects in the park’s cost estimate and found that these projects would cost about $318,000.
“All I’m asking for is $300,000,” he said.
The city’s stormwater money can be used to pay for stormwater infrastructure in the park, thus freeing up bond money for alternate projects in the park, Beresford said.
While addressing the council during last week’s meeting, Key said the advisory board had asked the council to reduce stormwater fees last year, which the Council voted down.
“We are simply taxing more than we are spending,” Key said, saying the Council would rather use the stormwater fund as a “slush fund.” He asked the Council to “make a statement of good faith” and find another way to fund the footbridge.
City Attorney Bobby Dyer said the city could legally use stormwater money to offset stormwater-related costs for the park as long as the arrangement was clearly spelled out in an agreement with the county.
Council Member Glen Cummins voiced disapproval for the plan to use stormwater money. He said that the Council was bypassing normal procedures, bypassing the stormwater advisory board, not getting enough public input and changing an agreement to select alternates based on the amount of money leftover from the park bond.
Cummins said he did not see initial construction of stormwater infrastructure as one of the allowed uses of the stormwater fund.
“I cannot justify this. I recommend the bridge as the only alternate at this time,” he said.
Georgia Development Partners, LLC was the low bidder for the Etowah project.
The Council voted as follows for the park and alternate options:
* Base bid of $2.355 million: yes, unanimous vote;
* Playground, $322,000: 5-1 yes, Cummins dissenting;
* Footbridge over Etowah River, $585,000: yes, unanimous vote;
* Lighting, irrigation, shelters and overlooks at the river, $55,000: 5-1 yes, Cummins dissenting;
* Trails to Boling Park, $251,000: no, unanimous vote;
* Landscaping, $68,000: 5-1 yes, Cummins dissenting;
* Amphitheater, $291,000: no, unanimous vote; and
* Seed grass in lieu of sod, savings of $95,000: no, unanimous vote.