City, county to finalize Sportsplex plan

September 9, 2009 9:56:00 AM

Kristin Mamrack -


The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted 3-2 to designate Burns Bottom property as the preferred site for a proposed six-field soccer complex. 


Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders, who called for more concrete action in a vote to purchase the property, and District 3 Supervisor John Holliman voted against the motion, made by District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks. 


Sanders originally motioned the supervisors vote to purchase the property, contingent upon execution of the options of 31 property owners in the Burns Bottom area and a contribution from the city of Columbus -- through in-kind contributions and donation of city-owned land -- "equal to the county''s contribution." 


"I don''t think it''s fair to ask 31 property owners to tie up their property (in options) for a year," he said, asking the board to take specific action regarding purchase of the property. "The Board of Supervisors hasn''t voted on where (we want to put the complex). That''s a reflection on the indecision of the Board of Supervisors. 


"We need to jump in there and do something," he added, suggesting the county could, in part, finance the project with money allotted for a previous bond issued to fund construction at the Lowndes County jail; the bond is scheduled to be paid off in about 15 months. 


Sanders also noted city officials, in "informal discussions," said the city would shoulder its share of the financial obligations. 


But Brooks noted unanswered questions regarding the financing of the project and a proposed timeline for completion of the sportsplex and made a substitute motion the board "designate Burns Bottom as the site to build the soccer complex" and meet with city and Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority officials to further discuss details on financing and construction. 


"The best way to clear up what the city wants is let''s meet with them," he said. 


Columbus Mayor Robert Smith attended the meeting and spoke, as mayor, not as a representative of the City Council. 


"My support is 120 percent for the Burns Bottom property," he said, noting the city owns 11 acres of Burns Bottom property. "I can''t speak for the council, but, as far as my vote, if it comes to a tie, you can count on my vote 120 percent." 


"I have no real problem with the city, but they''re lacking some of the money up front," Brooks said. 


"I don''t think anyone in this room is opposed to Burns Bottom," said District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, noting a meeting between the relevant groups would be beneficial. "Financial obligations is the biggest discussion. After we purchase the property, what happens? What''s the timetable? 


"Burns Bottom is a no-brainer," he continued. "I think what we talk about, at this point, is finances. There''s not been enough dialogue to make everyone comfortable." 


"I think we''re all headed in the same direction," said Holliman, noting a necessity for more meetings.  


"I''m for the Burns Bottom soccer complex, but there are too many unanswered questions," Brooks said, asking the City Council pass a resolution of its intent to donate property and contribute to the project, then for a joint meeting between the council, the supervisors and the CLRA board of directors. 


The City Council is expected to address the issue during its regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 15. 


A public meeting between the council, supervisors and CLRA is scheduled for Sept. 17 at 9 a.m. in the Columbus Municipal Complex. 


In June, the Board of Supervisors authorized Columbus-Lowndes Development Link officials to seek property options from the 31 Burns Bottom landowners; Link officials earlier said all the landowners agreed to sell their property. 


The total appraisal for the 70-acre Burns Bottom property came to about $288,000, Sanders previously said.