Proposed military center may locate at old Warner Robins sports complex site

chwright@macon.comJanuary 23, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- A proposed military retraining center may be built on land formerly meant for the city sports complex, according to three Warner Robins City Council members.

Council members Mike Brashear, Carolyn Robbins and Paul Shealy said Wednesday the city intends to pitch the 44-acre site to state legislators for a school aimed at training military veterans for the private work force. Gov. Nathan Deal proposed the $10 million project, dubbed the Military and Veterans Academic and Training Center, in his budget to the state Legislature.

“It’s already got curbs, gutters, water, sewer, gas, drainage,” Shealy said. “We’re going to go to the table with some pretty valuable property there that they can start building on tomorrow, if that’s what they wanted to do.”

The land, located northwest of Russell Parkway and Ga. 247, previously was slated for tournament softball fields. But on Jan. 16, council voted to buy land at North Houston and Elberta roads for a recreation complex that will include those fields.

When Deal’s project was announced, House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, said it would be located “within sight” of Robins Air Force Base. He did not elaborate but said it’s possible the city of Warner Robins could donate land.

Brashear, Robbins and Shealy confirmed City Council has discussed donating the land to the state for the retraining center.

“It will revert back to the city if not developed or if the state legislature doesn’t approve it,” Brashear said.

Brashear said state legislators have to approve Deal’s budget proposal first. Council also needs to approve the donation, which he said most of council is on board with.

Shealy said part of the reason council announced the sports complex relocation was so the state would have no qualms about the 44 acres west of Robins.

“They looked at property north of base but not over there because they knew it was obligated for something else,” Shealy said.

With the obstacle out of the way, Robbins and Shealy said they will speak with state legislators at the Georgia Municipal Association’s Mayor’s Day Conference this weekend about using the former sports complex location for the retraining center.

Councilmen Mike Daley and Daron Lee, who represent the district where the land is located, did not return calls for comment.

Councilman Mike Davis declined to comment specifically about the retraining project because “we were asked not to talk about it.” He did, however, say he would support such an idea if it were on the table.

Mayor Chuck Shaheen said last week the old sports complex land would be used for football fields and walking trails, but it appeared Wednesday council had a different plan. Shaheen did not respond to messages left with him and his spokeswoman.

As for the remaining 60 or so acres the city owns between the property and Memorial Park, the plans vary.

Davis said council needs to sit down and decide what the best use of the land is. Recreation Department Director James Dodson said Tuesday he wanted to put football fields near the park. Brashear said it’s in a HUBZone, which gives businesses better bidding prospects for military contracts, and should be used for such purposes. Robbins and Shealy agreed council needs to talk about it.

Either way, Robbins and Brashear said recreational activities for the Jefferson Hills children are expected. Robbins said Memorial Park will be renovated, and Brashear said he would like to see a playground.

“We’re still in the planning stages with all that,” Robbins said.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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