Council votes to support county’s sportsplex land quest

June 17, 2009

Neal Wagner -


Columbus officials are "on board" with the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors'' Monday decision to seek property options from landowners in the 71-acre plot of land in the city''s Burns Bottom area being considered for the county''s sportsplex project. 


The announcement came during a Tuesday night meeting of the Columbus City Council after council members briefly discussed the matter. 


While the council agreed to support the county''s quest to secure the land, council members were quick to point out they were not "officially" selecting the Burns Bottom land to receive the sportsplex. 


The agreement came one day after the Board of Supervisors voted to authorize officials with the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link to seek property options from more than 30 landowners in the Burns Bottom area. 


After speaking with each of the property owners, Link officials will report back to the Board of Supervisors within 60 days. After the report, city and county officials will decide if they wish to purchase the land. 


"There had not been a concrete vote on which property to purchase," said Ward 5 Councilman and Vice Mayor Jay Jordan, noting several members of the City Council and Board of Supervisors informally declared their preference for the Burns Bottom land during a June 10 special meeting of representatives of both bodies and the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority. 


"I think the process of trying to secure property options is more to determine the viability of that property than anything," Jordan added. "This motion just voices support for what they (Board of Supervisors) have done so far. It doesn''t obligate any of the incoming council members in any way." 


Although Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor, Ward 3 Councilman Gene Coleman, Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart and Ward 6 Councilman Jerry Kendall voted to support the county''s Monday decision, Ward 2 Councilwoman Susan Mackay voted against the motion, criticizing city and county officials for not thoroughly reviewing studies performed on Burns Bottom and two other properties being considered for the sportsplex. 


Jordan, who was acting mayor during the meeting in Mayor Robert Smith''s absence due to a minor surgery, did not vote in the matter. 


In addition to the estimated $868,440 Burns Bottom property, Columbus and Lowndes County officials also are considering an estimated $474,864, 156-acre tract of land near the Columbus Riverwalk and a predicted $875,000, 50-acre plot near the Highway 82 Macon-Meridian exit for the sportsplex project.  


Once completed, the sportsplex will house the county''s soccer and football programs. 


"There was a study conducted on all three properties that we paid $15,000 for," Mackay said. "That informal (June 10) poll was taken before anyone had read the findings of those studies. 


"If everyone will really read the study results, you''ll see that there are pros and cons for each piece of property," Mackay added. "I challenge the new council to sit down and really read all of the material given to us regarding the properties." 


Because Tuesday was the last City Council meeting for Coleman, Mackay, Jordan and Kendall, the council members made frequent reference to the incoming council. The four leaving the council will be replaced next month by Charlie Box, Joseph Mickens, Kabir Karriem and Bill Gavin, respectively. 


"Any decision that would have financial ramifications to the city; I think we should leave that up to the next council," Jordan said. "It would not be proper for anything we did tonight to obligate them in any way. 


"By voting to just support what the county is doing, we are not obligating the future council to a particular piece of property," Jordan added. "We don''t want this to be a hot potato in their lap. We don''t want to just say, ''Here, here''s where the sportsplex is going.''" 


In other business, the council: