South DeKalb Y touting its green space, lake, proposed trails

7/25/2014, 7:30 a.m.
The South DeKalb YMCA is hosting tours of its 18-acre property on Snapfinger Road in Decatur to show residents and ...
Curtis Winston, South DeKalb YMCA executive director, and DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson tour the 18-acre property on Snapfinger Road. Public tours of the property begin July 26.

The South DeKalb YMCA is hosting tours of its 18-acre property on Snapfinger Road in Decatur to show residents and other stakeholders its greenspace that is included in the proposed $4.95 million acquisition by DeKalb County.

The tours, which kick off July 26, also will take place Aug. 3, 9 and 16.

Curtis Winston, the Y’s executive director, said the project, which is opposed by DeKalb Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader, includes much more than the Y’s building that sits on one acre.

“There are six soccer fields, tennis courts, and a lake,” he said. “We have the only indoor swimming pool in South DeKalb.”

Under the public-private agreement, the county would use greenspace acquisition funds to purchase the YMCA and lease it back to the Metro Atlanta YMCA for a dollar a year for 50 years. In return, the Y will use the funds to renovate and expand the building, make improvements like adding a splash pad for kids, and manage the property at no cost to the county.

The project hit a snag in June when it failed to get majority support from the Board of Commissioners. Rader, Gannon and Elaine Boyer opposed the project, and Gannon and Boyer voted against it. Rader abstained so that interim CEO Lee May, who supports it, would not get to break the tie for the board, which has been operating with six of its seven commissioners for more than a year.

Districts 7 and 3 Commissioners Stan Watson and Larry Johnson proposed the project and want to use money from their districts’ greenspace acquisition funds to fund it. Watson is chipping in $651,842, and Johnson, $307,250, which will exhaust all the money they have left to purchase land for greenspace. The remaining $4 million will come from the countywide acquisition money from the 2001 and 2006 Parks Bond Funds approved by voters.

Gannon and Rader said the funds could be better spent on improving recreation centers like the Tobie Grant Center in Scottdale that are badly in need of repairs.

Johnson said land acquisition funds cannot be used for renovations.

“That’s a different pot of money,” he said Tuesday while accompanying a visitor on a tour of the Y’s property on Snapfinger.

Johnson also pointed out that the Scottdale rec center will be replaced with a new center as part of a DeKalb Housing Authority project under way at the former Tobie Grant public housing development.

The controversial agreement is scheduled to come back before the Board of Commissioners on Aug. 12.

The board has been down a commissioner since May was appointed interim CEO on July 16, 2013. The county is now considering applications for the appointment of an interim District 5 commissioner. May said July 22 that the appointment is not expected until the end of August.

Winston said the YMCA tours will offer residents an opportunity to see the project’s potential.

“Ultimately, availability to these features would greatly enhance the quality of life for South DeKalb residents and all DeKalb County residents who choose to partake,” he said.