ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta residents will have another chance to address the City Council about plans for a $29.5 million parks bond referendum this November.
Officials opened the matter up for public comment Monday (May 24), and a second public comment session is scheduled for June 7.
If approved for the ballot by the City Council and passed by residents in November, the money will be earmarked for about a dozen big-ticket projects. While cost estimates continue to be updated, city leaders stress that the tax rate — or mill levy — on property will not increase because of the added debt.
Typically, the city establishes a bond for a term of 25 years. That amounts to an annual payment of about $1.6 million for the city, a figure the Finance Department says can be managed under the current mill levy.
The city is now working to finalize its list of projects to garner public support.
“We’re on a timeline now to advertise and to hear public comment on the bond projects,” City Administrator Bob Regus told the council May 17.
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Morgan Rodgers said the department is updating cost estimates on each project to provide the best picture of what residents can expect for the money. Some projects, like design and buildout of Old Rucker Park, are hard to figure, he said, because the public hasn’t had a chance to help decide on a look for the park.
As it currently stands, the city is listing 12 projects to consider for the bond. After months of discussions and workshops, council members ranked the projects by preference.
Topping the list are the buildout and improvements to the Equestrian Center at Wills Park and new turf for the Webb Bridge Park soccer field.
Upgrades and enhancements to Wills Park outside the Equestrian Center also scored high.
Both Wills Park projects have drawn estimates of about $5 million each, although final costs continue to be updated this month.
Other projects under consideration include design and buildouts for Waters Road Park, Mayfield Road Park and Milton Avenue Park.
The list also includes design and buildout for the small Farmhouse Community site near Ga. 400 and Old Milton Parkway. The 5-acre tract is thought to be the earliest settlement for the area that would become Alpharetta. The Farmhouse Park project, estimated at about $2 million, has drawn strong support from the local historical community.
A handful of area residents spoke on behalf of the project at the May 17 council meeting.
“The Farmhouse is the beginning of Alpharetta,” Connie Mashburn, a longtime local historian and author told the council. He said the plot is in an isolated place.
“We’re never going to get floods of people down there,” Mashburn said, “but it’s something that’s worth protecting and allowing people who have an interest in that sort of thing to see.”
The Farmhouse preservation project has garnered strong support from two of the seven council members. Donald Mitchell and Ben Burnett ranked it at the top of the list in priority. The balance of the council was less enthusiastic, placing it overall in seventh place on the project list for funding.
Even so, Mashburn said he felt privileged to live in a city that pays any attention to its heritage.
“I’m glad to be up here asking for more money, as opposed to asking for any money,” he said. “I feel very fortunate that we have the kind of city government that we do that pays attention to the history community and people who love history in our city.”
City Councilman Mitchell drove the point further later in the meeting when he received pushback on a proposed $12,500 expense to help continue the historical Stories Project at the Alpharetta Arts Center. The item came up as part of discussions on the proposed 2022 budget, scheduled for approval next month.
The item drew questions over how much city government support should go to the arts and cultural projects when there is little participation from the private sector.
“Remembering our own city’s history is one of those important things that we need to do out of our budget,” Mitchell said. “It’s $12,500 for God’s sake.”