Two recreation centers and a public pool are proposed to close in an effort to trim more than $1.5 million from the county’s parks and recreation budget.
The county has suggested closing the Mason Mill center in Decatur and the Lucious Sanders center in Lithonia, along with the N.H. Scott pool on Tilson Road in Decatur. The closings are part of a proposed adjustment to the county’s overall budget and will be voted on June 22.
“Those two centers have lower overall utilization and they have other programs that use the buildings,” said Ted Rhinehart, DeKalb County’s deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure. “With the reduction of parks staff, there is not enough full-time staff to keep the programs going so the programs will move to other parks.”
Though nothing is finalized, Rhinehart said the youth programs at Mason Mill may move to Briarwood and the programs at Lucious Sanders could move to Redan.
A center director and a center leader at each facility are expected to take early retirement, Rhinehart said, and those four positions will not be filled. The elimination of those positions will save an estimated $200,000 total, Rhinehart said.
About 140 children are enrolled in a nine-week summer camp program at Mason Mill. An employee at the center said parks employees cannot comment on the proposed closings.
Meanwhile, the senior center at Mason Mill and the DeKalb Tennis Center on the property will continue to operate.
Also, construction could begin soon on an improvement plan that will relocate the dog park and add playgrounds and trails at Mason Mill. The improvements are funded by a parks bond, Rhinehart said, that was approved by voters in November 2005. The project had been in the planning stages, but bids were awarded recently.
The majority of the cuts to the parks and recreation budget are coming from personnel. A total of 60 parks jobs were eliminated in February when the budget was approved, and 41 more workers took early retirement in May, Rhinehart said.
“Most of those positions are in the maintenance area,” Rhinehart said. “It will affect how frequently fields are mowed, restrooms are cleaned and things like that.”
The N.H. Scott pool closed last week for the rest of the summer because of a severe leak. Rhinehart said the county elected to close the pool instead of paying $150,000 for repairs. Whether it will reopen next summer depends on next year’s budget, Rhinehart said.