EDITORIAL: Peach County doesn’t need to douse cold water on park project

The following may get confusing, so read carefully. On Tuesday, the Peach County Commission may have managed to scuttle what all the commissioners said they wanted: a water park. The 3-2 vote came after the subject hit the table at an earlier meeting but a decision was postponed for reasons only commissioners understand. Commissioners wanted more information but couldn’t articulate what information they wanted. At issue at this latest meeting was the contract that would have required the county to put up $300,000 for an entrance road leading into the commercial subdivision that would house the water park.

The revised contract between the county and land developer Tim Thornton would have put the onus on Thornton to pay the money back if the water park plans were killed. However, a Telegraph reporter had to loan Thornton a copy of the contract because the commission had not forwarded one to him. Granted, the language of the payback stipulation could have been more artfully written giving time frames for construction, for instance, but now, no one knows what to do next following the rejection of the deal. Thornton, somewhat bewildered, said, “Quite honestly, I think it’s a dead deal. I thought one of them might come around tonight. I don’t think they’ll entertain it again.” Well, they should.

The park was to include an indoor pool, wave and splash pools, a lazy river and slides. Projections were that it would be open year-round and employ at least 22 full-time and 75 part-time workers, not to mention the construction jobs it would have provided. All this occurred against the backdrop of the county’s finances that looked less than rosy. Just last week, the commission approved a 1-mill tax increase. The county has had to take money from reserves to balance its budget. The area has seen no increase in revenues because it has been unable to attract new businesses and residents. According to the Census Bureau, the county’s population of 27,014 has declined 2.5 percent since 2010. The county has 26.6 percent of its population living below the poverty line.

While we understand the commissioner’s concerns, we are not sure they understand their concerns and have the ability to convey them to the developer. They should fully air them and try to get this project back on track. It’s going to take a lot of little economic wins to get the county on developers’ radar screens, and they should remember, there is competition all around them and not just in the water park arena. If Peach doesn’t move, the knock of opportunity may fade.