The city of Dunwoody may consider putting surplus funds toward expansions of the Spruill Center for the Arts and the Dunwoody Nature Center. 

Members of the Dunwoody City Council and city staff discussed the option on May 6 at the first meeting of the city’s Capital Prioritization Committee, which is in charge of prioritizing a list of unfunded capital projects ahead of a possible bond referendum in November. During the meeting, Assistant City Manager Jay Vinicki said the city has enough in its fund balance to spend on a project now. 

“Our fund balance is a little bit higher than we would like,” Vinicki said. “So we have $2 [million] to $3 million that we could spend on one-time capital today.” 

The city is also in the midst of negotiating the sale of land at 4553 North Shallowford for a new Emory Healthcare medical office. Vinicki said that sale could generate $6 million to $7 million more when approved. No date has yet been set for the finalization of that sale. 

In an emailed statement, Vinicki said the city is considering offering $1 million each for the Spruill Center and the Dunwoody Nature Center. Officials hope to have things finalized by May 23, which is the date of a Dunwoody City Council meeting. 

City council members ranked a list of capital projects at the council’s annual March retreat. Vinicki said two of the most popular projects were the Spruill expansion, as well as an expansion of the Dunwoody Nature Center.

During the meeting, Councilmember John Heneghan, who serves on the Capital Prioritization Committee along with Councilmembers Joe Seconder and Catherine Lautenbacher, said he would feel more comfortable funding the expansions after receiving funds from the sale of the property at Shallowford. Vinicki suggested arranging an agreement where each entity would have to spend their portion of the money on the expansion before the city’s went into effect. 

“That way we’re committing to them on the project, but it’s not today,” Vinicki said.

Spruill CEO Alan Mothner presented Spruill’s proposed $2.3 million expansion to the city’s Public Facilities Authority, which is made up of members of the City Council, in February. At that meeting, Mothner said that Spruill would donate $1.3 million of its own funds to the project, which would add additional classroom spaces. In an emailed statement, Mothner said that Spruill is ready to proceed with the expansion pending assistance from the city. 

A rendering of the expanded arts center.

“At the Facilities Authority presentation, we requested $1 million towards the project and that remains unchanged,” he said. “We have the remainder of the finances in hand, as well as construction documents to begin the expansion.”

A representative for the Dunwoody Nature Center did not return a request for comment about the center’s proposed expansion in time for publication. 

During the rest of the May 6 meeting, the committee discussed the list of unfunded projects and the next steps for moving towards a possible bond referendum. Depending on which projects are funded by a bond, the city would have to include a separate question for each category of project. For example, parks projects and transportation projects would fall under separate ballot questions. 

Doug Gebhardt with Davenport and Company, a capital market company the city hired to help with the bond process, presented the estimated impact a bond would have on homeowners at $30 million, $40 million, and $50 million with a 20-year repayment schedule. According to Gebhardt, the estimated debt service per year for a $30 million bond would be $2.2 million to 2.4 million per year, and the estimated debt service for a $40 million bond would be $2.95 million to 3.2 million a year. Gebhardt did not give an estimated annual debt service for a $50 million bond, but said that for every additional $10 million, the annual debt service increases by roughly $500,000. 

Committee members are expected to meet again to narrow down the capital list before they present a version to the public at three town halls. According to a city spokesperson, the first town hall will take place on May 17 at Kingsley Racquet and Swim Club at 2325 North Peachtree Way at 6 p.m. 

The second town hall will take place on May 24 at Dunwoody City Hall at 4800 Ashford Dunwoody Road at 6 p.m, and the third meeting will take place on May 25 at the N. Shallowford Annex at 4470 N. Shallowford Road at 6 p.m. 

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.