Park improvements were of primary concern at the Columbia County Public Works Services Committee meeting Tuesday at the old Appling courthouse.
The committee approved a proposal by Johnson, Laschober & Associates, of Augusta, to design what will probably be a 9,000-square-foot skateboard and BMX facility at Blanchard Woods Park. Originally, the facility, which was part of the park’s master plan, was to cover 10,000 square feet, but site restrictions might require reducing it.
“We really had to look at the master plan for that facility and see how and where this might fit best,” said Matt Schlachter, the county’s Construction and Maintenance director.
The design fee will be $75,000, and construction cost is estimated at $800,000.
The committee also approved the construction, as planned, of an inclusive playground facility behind the Columbia County Library. The playground, designed to be play-appropriate for all children, including those with special needs and physical and cognitive disabilities, had met with opposition from property owners whose yards back up to the facility.
The equipment for the playground has been shipped and is in a warehouse. Plans call for a buffer of at least 30 feet from the nearest property line, Schlachter said. Protesting property owners had suggested that a small grove of evergreen trees might make a suitable buffer between the park and property lines, he said, but the tall pine cover and lack of irrigation probably would kill the evergreens.
“We’ve made considerable concessions already,” said County Administrator Scott Johnson. “We’ve had noisemakers redesigned and pointed away from the houses. The thing is, they just don’t want it, and planting trees will do nothing.”
Also discussed were a variety of water-utility projects, the abandonment of unused road spurs in Crawford Place, and emergency culvert and road repairs on Stevens Way.
In a meeting that immediately followed the Public Works session, the Community and Emergency Services Committee approved support of the FLW Outdoors Bass Fishing Tournament, set for Sept. 28-29, 2013. It also approved an amendment that would adjust rental rates at Evans Towne Center Park and Lady Antebellum Pavilion depending to the nonprofit or for-profit status of the renters.
Committee Chairman William Morris voiced concern that language on unforeseen cancellations, such as those caused by bad weather, might be ambiguous. It was agreed that a cancellation policy being written for other Columbia County park facilities would be used.
“That would make me feel more comfortable,” Morris said. “I just feel like it needs to be specific.”
The committee approved a $500 increase in Arts Development Fund re-grants, the sale of surplus police cruisers to the city of Thomson and the donation of surplus radio repeaters to area amateur radio clubs.
The meeting concluded with the presentation of a small portrait of long-serving Probate Judge Pat Hardaway, who died in July 2011. County Commission Chairman Ron Cross presented the portrait to sitting Probate Judge Alice Padgett and Hardaway’s daughter Penny Saggus. The portrait is similar to one that hangs in the Columbia County Justice Center in Evans.
Saggus said the photograph would hang in the probate building that served as Hardaway’s headquarters for many years.
“This is where her heart was,” Cross said.