Peach commissioners delay water park decision

FORT VALLEY -- Though Peach County commissioners have been looking at water park proposals for a year, too much was new in Thursday’s presentation for most of them to OK a deal.

The deal would have put as much as $300,000 toward building an entrance road to support the water park, planned near the intersection of Russell Parkway and U.S. 41. Commissioners will again consider the plans in a 5 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

Real estate developer Tim Thornton, who has a contract to sell the land to the water park’s developer, told commissioners he got a new site plan at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. The changes, which drastically changed the kind and length of road commissioners had been considering, were too much for the full commission. Commissioners Roy Lewis and Martin Moseley voted to go ahead with the money and the deal, while Walter Smith and Melvin Walker voted against it. Commissioner Betty Hill abstained, saying she wasn’t ready to vote on it.

No commissioner spoke against the idea of the water park itself, which Thornton said would take about 5.9 acres. The park would include a wading pool and splash pad, a lap pool, a wave pool, several water slides and a lazy river, Thornton said.

“It’s quite involved and quite a bit (of park). It’s a multi-million-dollar development,” Thornton said.

The property is entirely within Peach County but also within Warner Robins’ city limits. It’s close to a shopping center that includes Monkey Joe’s.

Thursday’s discussions came not long after commissioners voted unanimously to raise the county’s property tax rate. Lewis said if the county doesn’t take action to grow its tax base, it will wind up raising taxes yearly.

“We saw what the impact of not having any growth costs,” he said. “One of the questions in the budget hearings (was) ... ‘What are you all trying to do to create jobs and grow the county?’ Well, that’s the question we’ve got here before us today.”

The new road envisioned by Thornton would be a major entrance road off Russell Parkway into his planned commercial development, with turn lanes from each direction on Russell and a right-turn lane out onto Russell. That would come with wide medians and curbs and gutters. The road would reach the corner of the water park, but a privately funded driveway would actually carry traffic to its parking lot, which would also have access to Lakeview Road.

A plan presented last week to commissioners had a road that was narrower but longer and included a turn and cul-de-sac near the water park.

Commissioners talked for about an hour and a half Thursday about the proposal, with frustrations often leading them to talk over each other.

Walker, the commission’s chairman, indicated he was hesitant partially because the water park’s developer, Jeff Franklin, wasn’t present.

“I don’t like last minute stuff,” he told commissioners. “You should know that by now.” He turned to County Attorney Jeff Liipfert “I’m not sure, Mr. Liipfert, who we’re supposed to be dealing with here.”

The county’s engineer plans to have price estimates ready for Tuesday’s meeting.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.