City Council moves ahead on new rec center, will study an aquatics center as well

An artist's rendering of what the proposed new James Brown Recreation Center building could look like.

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DALTON, Ga. — Dalton could have a new John Davis Recreation Center by the summer of 2021.

The Dalton City Council voted 4-0 Monday to approve a contract with KRH Architects to design the new building and to do a feasibility study for an aquatics center. The firm will receive $24,000 and 6% of the cost to construct the new building. Mayor Dennis Mock typically votes only in the event of a tie.

The new building would be in James Brown Park at the intersection of Mitchell Street and Avenue C, near the current John Davis Recreation Center.

The current building was built in three stages. The original section was built in 1957. In 1963, the building was expanded with a gym and additional office space. In 1986, the city added more office space and programming areas.

Officials say one of the issues with the building is that the oldest two parts of the building were not designed and built with air conditioning, which was added later, in mind. As a result, condensation inside the building causes the paint to peel and mold to form.

A citizens advisory committee that will make recommendations to the county Board of Commissioners for projects to be funded by a planned 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) has recommended $8.5 million in funding for the project. The building is also on the six-year capital project list for the city, so council members plan to go ahead with the project and have the city reimbursed for the cost if the SPLOST passes next year.

City Administrator Jason Parker told council members that plans call for the city to request bids to build the new rec center in December and to award the contract in January. Construction could begin in February and the project could be finished by June 30, 2021.

The firm will also do a feasibility study for an aquatics center.

"We have the only public swimming pool in the county," said Parks and Recreation Department Director Mike Miller. "We have one of the two competition pools in the county. But our pool is over 60 years old."

The city's pool is next to the current John Davis Recreation Center.

Council members say they are looking at building a regional aquatics center that could be used by the city of Dalton, Dalton Public Schools and Whitfield County Schools.

"This is something that has been on our radar for at least five years or so," said council member Denise Wood. "We are looking at something that would involve the county, the schools."

Parker said the study will look at potential demand for such a center, possible locations and the economic impact it could have.

Last year, a group of citizens presented a similar proposal to the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, noting that all three county high schools and two middle schools have swim teams. All practice at Dalton High School.

"There is still a desire in the local swimming community for such a facility," said Mark Hannah, whose wife Marta is the swim coach at Northwest Whitfield High School.

Council members also voted 4-0 to table a proposed law that would allow personal transportation vehicle (PTV) shuttle services in the central business district. PTVs are already allowed on some residential streets.

PTVs are essentially golf carts but by law must have a number of safety features — seatbelts, headlights, turn signals, etc. — that aren't necessarily found on golf carts used on golf courses. They can only be driven on city streets by licensed drivers.

The state legislature changed the law a couple of years ago to allow PTVs to be operated on city streets if a city OKs them, subject to certain limitations. PTVs can’t be operated on federal highways, state roads or heavily-trafficked cross streets. They can only be operated on streets with speed limits of no more than 25 mph.

The proposed law would allow anyone owning a business or property in the downtown business district to operate a free PTV shuttle service. It would allow the police chief and the public works director jointly to set the days and hours any shuttle service could be operated.

Public Works Director Andrew Parker said that department and the police department agreed that it would be better to set hours on a permit-by-permit basis rather than have one set of hours, so council members tabled the proposed law to give City Attorney Gandi Vaughn time to change the language to allow the hours to be set on a permit-by-permit basis.

The Dalton City Council will hold a workshop on the 2020 budget on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. in the second-floor conference room of City Hall.

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