MARIETTA — The $1 million in improvements to one city park, Laurel Park, will be completed by the end of May, and the city is adding money to the next project covered by money from a 2009 parks bond. The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved adding $22,763 to cover a high construction bid for improvements at Merritt Park, which includes a bridge, shelters and a sand volleyball court. That brings the total cost of the project to $272,763. But that’s less than the Custer Park project that wrapped up last year. The completed project came in at $1.6 million, more than triple the original budgeted amount. Councilwoman Annette Lewis said it was worth the cost, though. “Because of that, Marietta has its first soccer complex,” Lewis said. She said the site can now play host to soccer tournaments. The drainage, lighting and shade structure additions to the 25-acre Laurel Park was “nothing extravagant,” said Lewis, but were necessary to get the most usage and be inviting to residents. According to council’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee, the four-year-long parks bond initiative is on budget, with only a fifth of the original $25 million allotment left.“We went through the parks with such a fine-tooth comb,” said Lewis. Most of the remaining money will be used to purchase land and build the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center. Lewis said the committee wants the facility to meet requests from the community, such as a water feature and meeting rooms.
Still no consensus on Lawrence Street facility Committee
members disagreed on how to include the Lawrence Street Recreation Center in this last stage of recreational upgrades. Councilman Anthony Coleman wants to raze the property to build a new, modern facility. Lewis said it would cost at least $1.1 million to refurbish the Lawrence Street site and suggested partnering with the Marietta Police Athletic League to help run youth programs. Having only one premier location would save operating costs for the Parks and Recreation Department, she said.
Nine grant requests
The council received copies of nine grant requests, totaling $455,847 from auto and hotel/motel taxes. Each local organization listed received funding last year. The Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art and the Marietta Museum of History account for $286,625 of the full amount. The Georgia Ballet received $3,000 in 2013 but requested $40,000 for next year. The Earl Smith Strand Theatre nearly doubled the amount of its request from last year. The Strand and the Atlanta Lyric Theatre Company are parting ways after this season. For the first time, the Parks, Recreation and Tourism committee will approve the grants for 2014. The Finance and Investment Committee previously handled the recommendations. Lewis said she will review each grant request for how the organization falls into the parameters of using hotel/motel tax to promote tourism. On Monday, Gov. Nathan Deal continued his tourism initiative by signing House Bill 318, which makes it easier for businesses to receive tax breaks to create or expand attractions. May starts an influx of events in Marietta for the summer season, including the Brown Bag Concerts on Thursday afternoons.