By John Schaffner
The final decisions on items in Mayor Kasim Reed’s proposed 2011 city budget are still weeks away, but one item—the mayor’s request for $3.7 million for his Centers of Hope—came under review May 25 in a special Atlanta City Council work session.
While most council members voiced support for the concept of reopening 15 city recreation centers and seven city swimming pools that have been closed, some questioned the cost for the program and others said the mayor had not provided enough data to support his vision of the program.
The mayor’s proposal would open the recreation centers, using the money for basic staffing, repairs and maintenance. Corporate and philanthropic funding would be sought to raise the centers to a higher level.
The Peachtree Hills Park Recreation Center is the only one within the boundaries of Buckhead. Most are on the south side of the city.
The work session had been called by Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, who represents southwest Atlanta, as a fact-finding meeting on the mayor’s proposal.
“Unfortunately, we still do not have enough data to make an informed decision,” Sheperd said. “We have to do our due diligence, but I just don’t think they have given us the answers yet.”
Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents Buckhead’s District 8 and chairs the city Finance Committee, added, “It doesn’t feel strategic to me. It feels easy. The vision is way ahead of logistics.”
But Reed claims the administration has provided the council with “a detailed plan that shows this is not just a vision.”
Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who represents District 9, which includes part of Buckhead, said she supports the concept of the centers, but the cost worries her. She pointed out that, during previous budget cycles, recreation programs were cut because there was no money. She claimed the $3.7 million is not new money but would be reallocated funds from other programs.
Moore said, “$3.7 million can fund a lot of police officers, firefighters and fill a lot of potholes.”
In terms of other funding for the program, Turner Broadcasting has committed $1 from each CNN tour ticket sale, which is estimated to bring between $250,000 and $500,000 a year, and Comcast has donated $25,000 and has agreed to wire each facility. Athletic shoe company Converse has committed $100,000.
Reed also seeks $3.9 million in unspent county bonds to modernize the facilities.