As reported in the Red & Black, on Monday, June 12 the Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department hosted the last public review session for the new draft master plan for Bishop Park.
The remodeled park will include a new pool, gymnasium, administrative office, basketball courts, a quarter mile walking path, and bleachers.
This August Mayor Denson and the Commission is set to vote on the approximately $25 million master plan.
“I think the master plan is fantastic. Staff has put in a lot of time thinking of how we can get the most of that park because it’s landlocked,” said Kent Kilpatrick, interim director for Athens-Clarke County Park and Leisure Services.
Over the last few years, gymnastics has become one of the most demanding sports at Bishop. Most gymnastics programs offered by the park have a waiting list. According to Kilpatrick, the program has
“outgrown their space” and needs a larger facility to accommodate for its high demand.
As outlined in the master plan, the gymnastics program and the administrative building will move into a new 15,000-square-foot building.
The baseball, softball, and football fields will mostly remain the same, for exception of one of the softball fields.
“Our softball programs stay strong so we want to keep those fields, but we need to make one of those fields more multi-purpose because football and soccer continue to grow,” Kilpatrick said.
The new master plan will also accommodate all age groups from preschoolers to college students to seniors.
“A lot of young people, especially college students, play a lot of soccer to even ultimate frisbee out there,” Kilpatrick said. “We want to create a better space for them to be able to do that in that area of the park, in addition to adding a walking loop around the area.”
A popular sport among several seniors in Athens-Clarke County is pickleball. Due to its growing popularity, ACC Parks are also considering adding pickleball fields in the near future.
As for the estimated price tag of $25 million attached to the new remodeling of the park, Kilpatrick said that we also need to take into consideration the inflation that will happen between now and the time Bishop is completed. If inflation was not considered in the estimated price, the project could find itself short on funding.
“You’re also looking at a minimum of maybe 6 to 7 years before there’s funding available,” Kilpatrick said. “So you have to keep in mind inflation that will happen between then.”
For many commissioners, they approved how the construction and remodeling of the park will be split into four different phases. The first of which will be what facilities the park is in most demand for.
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As reported in the Red and Black, in anticipation of AthFest, an annual music and arts festival that begins June 23, many businesses such as Craft Public House on 1040 Gaines School Road, will be hosting special events.
The Eastside restaurant will combine art, food and charity with an art pop up featuring Jamie Calkin during its regular happy hour of which a portion of the proceeds will go toward AthFest Educates.
Supporting local art year-round, Rob Longstreet, the owner of Craft Public House, said his goal since opening the restaurant was to create a space to showcase local artists.
“We have a local art wall on the backside of the restaurant,” Longstreet said. “We hosted the first artist Mina Orion- Atlas Kim. She did art pieces for the wall right when we opened. The artist whose pieces are here now is named James Greer.”
In preparation for AthFest, Craft Public House decided to collaborate with Jamie Calkin, well-known for his watercolor paintings, particularly the mural inside of Tate Student Center. Calkin said he was excited about the pop up, where he will unveil a new piece for the restaurant.
“A little thing that’s interesting is that it’s probably gonna be an interior painting—that’s kind of new for me,” Calkin said. “I used to exclusively focus on the outside of buildings and scenes. It’s been an interesting challenge to try and capture inside spaces.”
During the event Calkin will be painting and selling some of his works, which will be on sale. Following AthFest, Calkin hopes to grow and try new techniques with his art.
“The Tate mural definitely gave me an appreciation for large pieces and public art; I would like to do more murals, interior and exterior,” Calkin said. “I’d also like to start doing oil paintings and oil portraits. That’s the next thing, since I almost exclusively work in ink and watercolor.”
It is still unclear whether the unveiling at Craft House will be a mural or a smaller work. Calkin said he just wants this art piece to be reflective of the Eastside neighborhood which generally receives less attention.
“I like the underdog. The Eastside in some ways is an underdog of Athens,” Calkin said. “It’s really exciting to celebrate that with the Craft pop up.”
Food and drinks will be served at Craft alongside the pop-up. A portion of the proceeds from Craft and Calkin will be given to AthFest Educates, a nonprofit that works to advance music and art education for students in Athens-Clarke County.
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As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, the Athens Clarke County Police Department is continuing to implement its community policing philosophy during its Youth Summer Camp.
“By doing this — getting out here with the kids and showing them that we’re people, too — its makes them not afraid to approach police officers,” said Youth Services Officer Greg Slaney, a 19-year veteran of the department. “At the same time, we’re giving these kids something productive to do instead of sitting at home on a game station.”
During the two, two-week day camps taking place this month, 75 boys and girls ages 8 to 14 will work through the Gang Resistance Education and Training summer program that targets communication skills, conflict resolution and goal setting.
“I’ve had kids come up to me and tell me how they used the conflict resolution skills they learned at camp to stop their friends from fighting,” Slaney said. “The skills that we teach out of the G.R.E.A.T. program, they really work.”
Aside from classroom work, campers also play games, do crafts and attend field trips.
We’re taking the kids bowling for a field trip,” Slaney said. “A lot of the kids have never been bowling, so it’s great that we can give them these new experiences.”
Serving as camp “team leaders,” ACC School Resource Officers trade in their uniforms for camp T-shirts and shorts, which makes it difficult for some kids to recognize them dressed that way.
“We’re dressed down in regular clothes, like regular people,” he said. “This way, the kids see us as people and not just as badges.”
Senior Police Officer Timothy Clark, a 19-veteran of the ACCPD, is one officer who volunteers with the camp.
“This summer camp is critical,” he said. “The kids learn self-discipline and how to respond to some of the circumstances they may encounter in life so hopefully they can make better choices.”
To hear it from the campers, it’s obvious that the ACCPD is accomplishing its goal of building relationships in the community.
“I didn’t really like cops at first because of everything you see on the news,” said Stacy Lumpkin, a rising freshman at Cedar Shoals High School. “But Athens-wise, I’ve learned that they’re cool people.”
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As reported in the Athens-Banner Herald, Athens-Clarke County commissioners will be voting on a proposed $235.4 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The new budget is an increase of almost $17 million over the current fiscal year’s spending plan.
Their meeting will also include a final public hearing on the budget proposal for the following fiscal year.
The spending plan for next fiscal year calls for $198.4 million in operating funds for the county government, with an additional $37 million allocated to capital projects including roadway maintenance, computer upgrades, vehicle replacement and similar initiatives.
The property tax millage rate, a fractional multiplier applied to the taxable value of a given piece of property to arrive at a tax bill, will not change so most property owners shouldn’t see any increase in their property tax bill.
According to a summary of the budget proposal, property taxes will provide almost $55.3 million in operating funds for the fiscal year beginning July 1, with sales taxes projected to yield $22.4 million and other taxes expected to bring in about $26.3 million.
As outlined in the mayor’s letter, part of the major increases in operating expenditures proposed for the upcoming fiscal year is a $1 million outlay to provide county employees with a 1 percent pay increase.
An additional $525,000 is set aside to help full-time employees offset health insurance premium increases.
Additional major funding initiatives include $200,000 to assist efforts of a public-private working group endeavoring to attract sustainable commercial air service to Athens-Ben Epps Airport, of which two major air carriers are interested, and $75,000 to assist in the implementation of initiatives that emerge from the planning of Envision Athens, a consulting firm that has involved hundreds of people in forming a 20-year vision for the community’s future.
A $245,000 outlay to expand Athens Transit service into currently underserved areas in Athens-Clarke County is also being proposed.
In other budget-related action, commissioners are scheduled to set the salaries of the three “charter officers,” county personnel whose roles are specifically noted in the charter that created the Athens-Clarke County government.
Those positions, and their salaries, are listed in an agenda report for Tuesday’s meeting, showing the county manager at $174,442, the county attorney at $168,773, and the internal auditor at $82,916.
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