Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Parks bond vote now seen likely

From the "Around Town" column of the Marietta Daily Journal on Tuesday, July 1, 2008 by Around Town columnists Bill Kinney, Otis Brumby and Joe Kirby

A FOLLOW-UP COBB PARKS REFERENDUM is looking more and more like a sure thing to go on the November General Election ballot.

Three of the five members of the Cobb Board of Commissioners - Chairman Sam Olens, West Cobb's Helen Goreham and east Cobb's Tim Lee - attended Sunday's informal meeting at the west Cobb home of Cobb Parks Coalition guru Paul Paulson at which groundwork for a bond push was laid. Three votes are all it would take to put the measure on the fall ballot.

The commission would have to act by July 22 in order to make the deadline for getting it on the ballot.

And as predicted in Saturday's Around Town, Olens unveiled a proposal at Sunday's meeting to achieve a $40 million parks bond without incurring a tax hike. It will be hard to argue against a proposal that calls for adding parkland and does so without asking for a tax increase.

The $40 million 2006 parks bond also was achieved without a tax increase by virtue of using the existing .22 mills of bond debt.

This time, Olens envisions reducing the millage for the fire department fund by .1 mills to 2.46 mills, which he said could be done without undermining the efficiency of the department. As it is, the county boasts one of the best fire departments in the state and an admirably low fire insurance rating of 3 on a scale of 1 to 10, which translates to lower insurance premiums for businesses and homeowners.

A possible fear is that the county might see the same sort of east vs. west squabbling that has marred the City of Marietta's abortive attempt to upgrade its aging park system. Much of the land purchased with the proceeds from the first parks bond in 2006 has been spent in west Cobb. But that has been a function primarily of the fact that there are more large undeveloped tracts available from which to choose in west Cobb than in east Cobb.

Yet passage of a second parks bond might well open the door for the county to pay more attention to the development of "pocket parks" - small 5 or 10 acre sites that primarily serve a radius of a few miles, rather than act as a "destination parks" for residents from around the county.

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