Brookhaven Parks Committee Presents to City Council

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Karen Whitehead, Terrell Carstens, Sue Binkert, Tom Riley
12.22.12
Brookhaven City Hall
9:30 AMThe Parks Committee presented to the Brookhaven City Council, Saturday, December 22, at Brookhaven City Hall.Sue Binkert began the discussion followed by Terrell Carstens and Karen Whitehead.
“What we are going to do today is give you [Council] a very very short synopsis of a process…to provide information about actionable items…to help you [Council] to identify start-up and critical issues that you’re going to be dealing with in reference to parks”, explained Binkert.

Terrell Carstens followed Binkert and presented Critical Action Items.

  • Critical Action Item #1: Determine a Parks and Rec annual budget.
  • Critical Action Item #2: Parks and Rec should be set up to report directly to the City Manager – not another department – to minimize the likelihood of Parks and Rec being subordinated if it were part of another department.
  • Critical Action #3: Determine the acquisition date of the parks. “The sooner we take them down, the sooner we can get to work on them,” said Carstens. “This will help minimize any further deterioration.”
  • Critical Action Item #4: Search for and hire Parks and Rec Director

Karen Whitehead followed Carstens. She thanked the council for the opportunity to present, “I think it sends an important message to us and the community and that parks are really not going to take a back seat…I think it was an important decision to have us here.” Whitehead also pointed out that the committee is looking to forward to parks purchases in September ’13 (hopefully), recognizing there is much work to do…but the committee suggests a Parks Director be hired first to create the master plan.

The promise of improvements to our parks was one of the major reasons people voted to incorporate and the council should not forget – nor push aside – delivering on that promise. Of course, setting up a first class Police Force should come first…but parks should be given serious attention. The vote on the referendum to create the city of Brookhaven was approved in July by the narrowest margin of any newly created city in the Metropolitan area. Delivering on the promises of enhanced services is squarely in the sights of the citizens.

During the presentation by Karen Whitehead, District 1 Councilwoman, Rebecca Chase Williams commented, “I think the challenge is going to be people want to see some immediate improvements in the parks…you’ll need to help us explain to the public that we need to go slowly to get everything in place.” Whitehead responded, “We will…if we understand what’s happening, it’s easy to do that.” “Just keep us in the loop,” Tom Reilly added, (another member of the Parks Committee).

The recommendations from the committee centers around the hiring of a Parks and Rec Director – who once hired will work to develop a master plan. There was some discussion as to whether the Parks and Rec Director should be a city employee or an employee of a vendor. The parks committee would prefer the position be a city employee as opposed an employee of a city vendor – although this decision is that of the Council and City Manager.

There are many questions regarding the 2006 Bond Referendum and how it will ultimately impact Brookhavens park acquisition plans. Interim City Attorney, Bill Riley mentioned that Dunwoody is in the midst of a lawsuit regarding bonds and funds relating to parks. Councilwoman Williams questioned the existence of an interest statement on bond funds – and had previously filed an open records request herself to no avail some time ago. Riley stated that Brookhaven will file it’s own Freedom of Information Act request and gather information on what was promised during the bond referendum – and how Brookhaven’s Parks would or could be affected. The lawsuit in Dunwoody has been going on for about a year. Riley stated that Brookhaven will benefit from Dunwoodys lead on this topic.

Brookhaven Mayor, J Max Davis, directed a question to Interim City Atty. Riley, asking that if Brookhaven sets up it’s Police in Summer of 2013, prior to acquiring the parks, could Brookhaven Police patrol the parks or does permission need to be granted. Riley answered by saying there’s roads in the parks and we own the roads so we should be able to patrol. “It’s important that we establish a police presence BEFORE we buy the parks”, Davis said, in an attempt to ensure public safety.

Video coverage of the 12.22.12 Council Work Meeting can be found here.

- The Post

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