Grading for two new soccer fields at the Madison County Recreation Department started Tuesday, but exactly when cleated kids will sprint down the sidelines remains up in the air due to funding issues.
The county board of commissioners tagged $1 million from the 2008 special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) for recreation department projects, including the addition of soccer fields, an irrigation pond, walking trails and a picnic area at Sammy Haggard Park off Hwy. 98.
That $1 million will be collected over six years. However, the BOC doesn’t want to wait six years to get started on recreation improvements.
The board took action Thursday to start construction on the soccer fields, agreeing to tag $100,000 in old sales tax funds, which were left over from the 1998 special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST), for the soccer fields, which will be located at 605 Brewer Phillips Road off Hwy. 98. They also agreed to pull $150,000 from the county’s general funds to get the construction of the fields under way.
Once the county begins receiving money from the 2008 SPLOST in September, the BOC will use that money to replenish what it is now taking from the general fund. Recreation leaders have urged the BOC to free up money for the expansion project, noting that they would lose a $75,000 matching grant unless action was taken. And Thursday’s action should secure that grant.
Recreation maintenance director Grady Autry said upgrades at the recreation department will be divided into several phases. He also noted that the total expansion cost on over 30 acres at Hwy. 98 park should run between $700,000 to $800,000.
First, the grading work for the fields, which is being conducted by Simpson Trucking and Grading out of Hall County, must be completed. Autry said the initial phase, which will also include the establishment of walking trails and a picnic area could be completed by the end of September if all goes as planned.
The next phase of the recreation department expansion will be the development of a new irrigation source for the fields. Recreation leaders have long planned an irrigation pond at the park, but those plans are now on hold, since the Army Corps of Engineers is requiring the county to develop a mitigation plan for the environmental impact of the pond on an unnamed tributary to the South Fork of the Broad River.
“It may be a year, two years, three years,” said Autry on when the county may resume its plans for an irrigation pond. “It (mitigation planning) gets very complex.”
Autry said the department will now look for a new well to serve the county recreation department fields, adding that the department will likely conduct a geologic survey to determine a good well site.
Once another water source is established, the department will construct a concession and restroom area for the soccer fields. They will then focus on establishing lighting for those fields.
“Soccer is the fastest growing sport in this county,” said Autry. “This is going to be a good thing when it’s done.”
But when everything is completed depends on when funding is available.
Asked for an estimated completion date, Autry responded: “whenever they get us the rest of the money.”