Residents expressed some displeasure about the city’s communication at Dunwoody’s first town hall to discuss the possibility of a future bond referendum. 

The city’s Capital Prioritization Committee, which was created at the end of April to rank the importance of projects ahead of a possible bond, first met on May 6 when they originally reviewed a list of 95 unfunded projects. The Dunwoody City Council initially viewed a list of capital projects that still need funding at its annual retreat in March 

At the May 17 meeting to discuss the possibility of a bond referendum, city staff presented a list of 17 projects. Assistant City Manager Jay Vinicki said the list is not necessarily the projects that would be financed through a bond, but a jumping off point for discussion. 

“This is not a recommended list of projects,” Vinicki said. “Here’s a dozen or so projects that would be the type of things we would bond.”

A group of residents at a town hall meeting for a possible bond referendum at Kingsley Racquet and Swim Club on May 17.

But some residents said the city hadn’t given them enough time to look over the list or consider if a bond referendum would be a good idea for Dunwoody. Bob Hickey said he didn’t think the city had given the public enough notice about the town hall meetings, given the fact that initial discussions about the unfunded capital projects started in March. 

“You give us all this stuff tonight and give us no opportunity to be prepared,” Hickey said. “How did this happen? Who gave the input? It surely wasn’t us.” 

Vinicki said the council wouldn’t make a decision on whether or not to move forward with a bond referendum vote until July, and residents would not vote until November if it does. The city will hold two other town hall meetings on May 24 and 25 at Dunwoody City Hall and the N. Shallowford Annex respectively to discuss the bond referendum. 

“This is the beginning of a 6-7 week process,” Vinicki said. 

The list of projects includes:

  • $11 million to design a new park at 5435 Roberts Drive
  • $10 million to help acquire new park property
  • $8 million for an eastside connector trail from Winters Chapel Road to Perimeter 
  • $8 million for a connector trail from the Perimeter District to Dunwoody Village
  • $8 million for a connector trail from Roberts Drive to the Village to Brook Run Park 
  • $7 million to help complete the city’s sidewalk program
  • $7 million to implement Phase 2 of Brook Run Park
  • $4 million to design a new park on Vermack Road 
  • $2 million for a possible turf field at Peachtree Middle School
  • $1.5 million for I-285 right of way for a trail connecting Perimeter Center East Park to the Georgetown area
  • $1.5 million to convert a Peeler Road sidewalk to a shared-use path
  • $1 million for boardwalk replacement at the Dunwoody Nature Center
  • $750,000 for parking lot paving at the Dunwoody Cultural Arts Center 
  • $600,000 to complete park construction at Waterford Park
  • $300,000 to rehab an existing veterans’ memorial at Brook Run Park

The list also included $1 million each for expansions at the Dunwoody Nature Center and the Spruill Center for the Arts. The Capitalization Prioritization Committee previously discussed putting surplus funds towards those two projects, which would mean the city would not include them in a possible bond. 

Residents also said that if they were to vote on a bond, they would like it to be as specific as possible. According to an FAQ passed out at the meeting, while the referendum must list a category for each group of projects, such as parks or transportation, the project list is not required to detail every single project. 

At the meeting, city staff also presented a possible way to use the city’s American Rescue Plan funds. The city created a separate committee, the American Rescue Plan and Grants Committee, to discuss the matter, and they met for the first time on May 13. 

The city has roughly $18.4 million in ARP funding, divided up into two ARP funds. The city originally took $10 million of its ARP allotment as revenue replacement, but approved the creation of a second ARP fund in April. This would allow that $10 million to be used on similar projects as the original ARP funding, but without the same federal requirements or timeline.

Since the May 13 meeting, the proposed budgets have slightly changed. The proposed budgets for each fund are as follows:

ARP 1:

  • $3 million for Perimeter Center East Park
  • $500,000 for wayfinding signage 
  • Roughly $4.9 million for stormwater programs

APR 2:

  • $2 million for direct assistance to nonprofit organizations 
  • $1.5 million for recreational equity 
  • $1 million for cybersecurity
  • $1 million for economic development 
  • $1 million for a social services incubator, or a facility where the city’s non-profits could use as a home base
  • $1 million for public safety and police
  • $1 million for lighting
  • $300,000 for administrative costs
  • $250,000 for city supplies/services 
  • $200,000 for grant writing
  • $1.25 million in contingency 

The council is expected to discuss ARP funding at its next council meeting on May 23, but will not vote on it until a later date. 

Some residents said they were pleased to see stormwater projects given priority, but still said they felt the city had not given them enough time or thorough communication about the town hall. Tom Taylor said the city cannot rely on its website to inform residents about important meetings.

“The communication, going back 8-10 years, needs to be way more proactive,” Taylor said.

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.