Checking it twice: Dougherty County Commission approves priorities for 2023 legislative session

Nov. 28—ALBANY — It's that time of the year for making wish lists, but this one is less about brightly wrapped toys and more about Frisbee golf, dog parks, walking trails and an amphitheater.

On Monday the Dougherty County Commission finalized a list of requests to take to local legislators ahead of the 2023 legislative session that begins in January. Like Christmas, it is an annual tradition, and county officials' version of holiday desires comes out to $4.2 million, with much of it devoted to recreation.

Commissioners approved the list of recommendations presented by County Manager Michael McCoy during a special called meeting at the conclusion of a regular work session. Only the amphitheater drew some criticism from a couple of commission members.

"My position on the amphitheater ... I'm not so crazy about the amphitheater," Commissioner Victor Edwards said. "We've already got an amphitheater in downtown Albany."

The proposed amphitheater, which would be located on the former golf course at Radium Springs, also is up for consideration for federal funding. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $12 million spring-shed preservation project for the site earlier this year, and the amphitheater is one project requested by the county.

"That project has not been funded," McCoy said. "We are one of the entities that are eligible for some of these funds. The county is just a smaller piece."

For Commissioner Russell Gray, the amphitheater could be a draw for outdoor concerts and events that would benefit the entire region by attracting more people to visit the area.

In addition to the $4.2 million in direct local dollars, the county also is calling for more state funding for items that affect many governments across the state — the need for more help to address mental health issues and the costs of housing state inmates who have been convicted at the county jail.

The biggest ticket item on the list compiled by McCoy is improvements at county parks, at a projected cost of $2.5 million. The county also is seeking $200,000 in state funding for a study examining a facility to house activities for those from the young to the old.

"The $200,000 (is) for study for an intergenerational facility, a feasibility study, for senior and youth services," McCoy told commissioners.

The study would assess whether there is a need for such a facility, and if so to determine where it should be located, how much it would cost and the design. Features envisioned for such a facility would include an outdoor walking track, swimming pool, splash pad, computer room, pickleball courts, meeting space and more, according to the county manager.

The park improvements listed include repair and maintenance of existing facilities, to improve safety and appearance, and the addition of new recreation trends such as disc golf, dog parks and pickleball.

Rounding out the requests is $1.5 million for the amphitheater and $2 million for a multi-use trail segment linking Albany to Chehaw Park & Zoo, which would extend the existing trail from its current terminus at Cox Landing.

Some of the items of statewide interest to local governments include Medicaid reimbursement for ambulance services, more funding for transportation projects, mental health reform, having the state take custody of convicted inmates instead of having them stay in county facilities for an extended period, and improving the method of negotiations for local-option sales tax dollars between cities and county governments.