Shaheen balks at water park in works for Warner Robins

chwright@macon.comJuly 22, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- A deal for a water park some City Council members have been working on behind the scenes is a bad deal, Mayor Chuck Shaheen said on Monday.

The developer “doesn’t even have financing for a water park, and he wants us to do all this stuff for him,” Shaheen said. “Why should we appropriate money and stick our necks out for him and the guy doesn’t even have financing? It’s just stupid.”

Shaheen made the remarks after reporters contacted him about a meeting the city council was supposed to have Monday with the Peach County Board of Commissioners. The details of the deal are fuzzy, and one councilman would only say it’s an “economic development project.”

“I’ve already been there when there have been discussions that have come outside of a closed session and I don’t feel comfortable talking about things that have gone on in a closed session until the appropriate time that information is supposed to come out,” said Councilman Mike Daley.

Daley said he’s meeting with the city attorney and possibly the mayor Tuesday to talk about what can be said about the project at this point.

The Monday meeting with Peach County commissioners was canceled, but Daley said the city and county are working to reschedule for Wednesday. Meanwhile, Shaheen said Atlanta developer Jeff Franklin wants to build a water park in the city.

But Daley and Councilman Mike Brashear have been working with Franklin to get financing, something Shaheen said is not a council function.

Shaheen said the two councilmen also have been working on a deal that would have Peach County build a road to the land.

“Even Chairman Walker said he’s not going to do it,” Shaheen said of Peach County Commission Chairman Melvin Walker.

Neither Walker nor Brashear could be reached for comment Monday evening.

Daley wouldn’t confirm Shaheen’s claims, but said he, too, doesn’t think it’s good business practice to promise anything to someone who doesn’t have concrete plans.

Shaheen said he doesn’t know where the park would be built, but Warner Robins shares just a sliver of its city boundaries with Peach County, which is on either side of Interstate 75.

Councilwoman Carolyn Robbins, Daley and Shaheen said the park has been discussed since last year in closed sessions, though Shaheen said it’d been put on the back burner.

“It’s not even a priority and all of a sudden we’re having called meetings to discuss it,” Shaheen said.

Councilwoman Robbins said the land would be near the visitors center council has talked about putting on Veterans Parkway near I-75.

She said she doesn’t know anything about deals being made on the water park, but it could be good for job growth and developing the western end of town.

Her concern was that announcing the prospect of a water park in the area could negatively impact the land deal the city is negotiating for the visitors center. Councilman Daron Lee said only that he’s not for the water park at this time because the sports complex and projects on the special purpose local option sales taxes from 2001 and 2006 haven’t been completed.

Shaheen said he’s not opposed to a water park in the city. In fact, he said, the owner’s of Rigby’s Fun Center and Johnny G’s have mentioned intentions to build one.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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