By Joe Earle

Briarwood Recereation Center is located in Briarwood Park.

DeKalb County recreation officials say they soon will begin painting, landscaping and making other repairs to improve the Briarwood Recreation Center.

The work, paid for with money left over after a new air conditioning and heating system was installed at the 46-year-old building in Briarwood Park, includes repairs recommended by residents of neighborhoods around the park.

“I didn’t think it made sense not to make improvements to your center based on the money available now,” project manager Revonda Moody told about two dozen residents gathered at the center April 29.

But, she said, “there’s less than $100,000 available now. Your list was bigger than $100,000.”

Moody would not say exactly how much money was available. She said she planned to use the cash to paint the facility, including the gym; landscape around the steps; remove a large, stone sign and move a smaller park entrance sign closer to the street; make repairs in the kitchen; rebuild an entrance ramp; add new front doors; and perhaps remove some floor tiles, as well as make other repairs.

“When you come up that handicapped ramp, there are two 90-degree turns that are impossible,” she said. “I’m fixing that.”

Residents attending the meeting seemed to welcome her plans to spruce up the center.

“It’s a start,” said resident Russ Arnett. “I’m just ready to get it done. It’s been a long time coming.”

Residents of the area around the park have been pushing the county for nearly 10 years to fix up the park and the recreation center. A plan to revitalize the park was proposed about 1999, adopted soon after that, and then shelved a short time later, residents said. Recently, DeKalb Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon appropriated the $240,000 from their discretionary funds to fix up Briarwood. Both attended the meeting April 29.

Rader said the county’s current design for recreation centers calls for buildings of 30,000 to 40,000 square feet. Briarwood takes in only about 10,000 square feet, so it may be replaced in the future by a larger facility, he said. Then another use would be found for the Briarwood building.

While the April 20 meeting focused only on potential short-time improvements to the park, long-term planning, he said, may take into account the needs of residents along the Buford Highway corridor, which he called the most densely populated area in DeKalb County.

Moody said no date had been set to start repairs. She indicated that once the plans were approved, she would have to work around the center’s schedule for summer camp and other activities. The planned repairs could take 45 to 60 days once the work begins, she said.

“None of this is rocket science,” she said. “But we’re trying to get it done smartly.”

“I’m encouraged that there is a plan to spend the rest of the money,” said Jodi Cobb, president of the Drew Valley Civic Association. “We’ve been waiting to see what was going to happen to it. I hope they are putting it toward useful projects.”

Cobb and several other residents said it might make sense to scrap one of the small projects and use the money to install sound-absorbing materials in the center’s meeting room. Sound echoed from the concrete-block walls of the room, making it difficult at times to understand what a speaker was saying. One resident suggested that acoustical materials be installed to reduce the noise. That, several residents said, would make the room, and the center, more attractive to neighborhood groups seeking meeting places.

“It’s just awful,” Cobb said. “We have meetings in here and the minute a baby starts up, it’s done.”

When choosing sites for association meetings, she said, “I always think of Briarwood Rec and I always think, ‘You can’t hear at Briarwood Rec.’ I you want to have an event here, nobody wants to be I this room.”

Moody said she’d look into the cost of adding sound-absorbing materials in the meeting room.