By Meris Lutz
The Cobb County Commission appears divided over a proposal to issue $24.7 million in bonds to buy land for new parks.
The commission is scheduled to vote on the bond issuance at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Greenspace advocates have been pushing the county to issue $40 million in park bonds approved by voters in a 2008 referendum. Those bonds were never issued, and county officials say they cannot retroactively collect funds from previous years.
A list of potential properties was presented to commissioners behind closed doors last week. Although the list has not been made public, a copy obtained by the Marietta Daily Journal contains 13 properties throughout the county for consideration.
The list includes the 50-acre Rosewood Goat Farm on Baker Road in northwest Cobb. Absent from the list is a large East Cobb tract owned by Wylene Tritt that many residents hoped to see turned into a park.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee issued a statement cautioning against the bond issuance, saying it would require a millage increase and the county has not identified the land it would buy yet.
“There are simply too many unknowns attached to a $25 million commitment,” Lee said. “I believe it is reckless to rush to issue debt without a clear plan.”
According to estimates by interim County Finance Director Bill Volckmann, the bonds would necessitate a hike of .13 mills, though he said it could be less.
Commissioner Bob Ott had no comment but has previously stated his opposition to approving the bonds before the final properties have been identified for purchase.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid said she was supportive of buying more greenspace, but declined to indicate how she would vote.
“I’m supportive of funding what we do have, which is better than not funding anything at all,” Cupid said.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell also said the bonds should be issued, even if it means raising taxes.
“To me, the voters spoke in 2008,” Birrell said. “I don’t want to raise taxes either but when you have a referendum, the voters are aware that there’s a bond money tax that’s going to be associated with that.”
Jennifer Burke of the Cobb Parks Coalition called the proposed bond issuance a great “first step,” and that her organization would continue to push for the $40 million voters approved.
“The referendum has to be honored,” Burke said.
Burke said it was especially concerning that the county would not issue the full amount after shifting debt service on existing park bonds to pay for the new Braves stadium, rather than issuing a new set of bonds for greenspace.
Commissioner Bob Weatherford could not be reached for comment.