Clack’s Corner is ready for its close-up.

The .2 acre plot located between Briarwood Park and Dresden Drive is the first park the city plans to improve under its Park Master Plan, which was presented in February.

A survey of the land, though, has to be conducted first – and that could take up to six months and move the beginning of any implementation into 2017.

The time lag did not sit well with Mayor John Ernst.

“I think we’re all choking over the six months,” Ernst told Parks & Recreation Director Brian Borden at the March 22 work session. “We do not have an appetite for another year delay. I want the hard hats on this year, not next year.”

Surveys are necessary, though, Borden said, because when the city purchased the parks from DeKalb County, the surveys were not very detailed. Knowing the exact boundaries of the parks, where utilities are located and the topography of the land is important before beginning any major work.

The move to put on hard hats, put shovels in the dirt this year and make visible improvements to the parks came to a head at the council’s retreat earlier this month.

The city currently has $2.6 million of Homestead Option Sales Tax funding budgeted this year for parks. Council members said they are eager to use that money to implement the first phase –– total cost of just more than $2.3 million ––  of the site-specific master plan. The estimated cost to make all the changes and improvements in Brookhaven’s site-specific Park Master Plan is just shy of $28 million.

For Clack’s Corner, though, Ernst and the council want all 2016 proposed improvements made by consulting firm Greenberg Farrow completed this year. Total cost is estimated at $39,500 and includes: a survey of the land for $1,500; a $5,000 monumental park sign; complete brick wall with granite cobble edging for $21,000; and replacing turf with gravel grass lawn for $12,000.

To be able to complete this project, one that has been in the works for years, would be a way to highlight the Park Master Plan and give residents something they can actually see the city doing to ensure parks remain a priority.

“We need to implement a plan and move forward,” Ernst said in a later interview.

“We don’t need a situation where we have paralysis by analysis … and having to go back and analyze everything again. The consultant has done a good job for us and come up with a cohesive design,” he said. “Let’s not be that city that makes a plan and doesn’t implement it.”

City officials are working to cut through as much red tape as possible to get parks projects done, but Ernst said that government does move slower.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee disbanded
Another damper on moving forward as soon as possible on park improvements was the disbanding of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee at the March 22 meeting. Members approached the council recently and asked the city to dissolve the committee, in large part because they “weren’t getting anywhere,” Ernst said.

“This is very important considering what was said in the retreat about us moving forward on parks,” Ernst said. “This is not an end, but a reorganization.”

Council member Bates Mattison said in the past the council put the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee “into a box and their voice was diminished by the city.”

“Parks are one of our founding principles. We need to empower this group, and looking at a new group we need to ensure we do that,” Mattison said.

At the council’s retreat, Council member Joe Gebbia threw out the idea of presenting for support and approval a $15-$20 million general bond to implement the parks plan and then turn over the funding to a development authority.

“This would help us identify as a real parks city,” he said at the March 18 retreat.

The city currently has more than $9 million in HOST funding for local projects, Ernst said.

Updated: An earlier version of the story said the Parks and Recreation Commission had been disbanded. It was actually the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

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