Joe Cowan Park tops Euharlee URA projects
by Jason Lowrey
Jan 11, 2014 | 1596 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Euharlee’s Joe Cowan Park, now finished, offers multiple playing fields and an arena that has covered seating. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
Euharlee’s Joe Cowan Park, now finished, offers multiple playing fields and an arena that has covered seating. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
For 2013, the lion’s share of Euharlee’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars went toward paying on the city’s Urban Redevelopment Area bonds.

As reported in the city’s 2013 report on projects funded with the 2008 SPLOST, $892,162.50 went toward paying on the bonds. The only other 2013 payments from the SPLOST came in the form of legal organ advertising in the amount of $207.90.

City Manager Trish Sullivan said the city turned toward URA bonds to finance a number of planned projects once SPLOST funds began dropping off during the recession.

“Our SPLOST funding, we didn’t know what was going to happen with it and we needed to have capital to — because the park had already been in the planning stages and had already been approved, I think, in the 2003, [2008] SPLOST, so we were already committed to doing it before the market crashed,” she said. “So once the market crashed we had to find a low-cost way to get the park built. You know, we wanted to finance it, but we didn’t want to have large amounts of interest.”

Euharlee received a URA bond in 2010 and again in 2013, as the bonds run in a three-year cycle. Sullivan said the city plans to apply for them again when the current cycle ends. In addition to the low interest rate, Sullivan said she appreciated how the bonds have specific usages.

“You have to define before you get the bond where the money’s going to go. ... You have to identify an area that’s considered blighted and in need of redevelopment. There were several steps that we had to go through. The 2013 URA bond was actually a revision of the 2009 bond. It [was] extended and revised a little bit,” she said.

The largest URA project for 2013 was Joe Cowan Park, said Planning and Zoning Administrator Ron Goss.

“I think that was the most, from a budget standpoint definitely, but that definitely in my opinion would have been the most substantial project from an impact on the community — the services for the citizens. A lot of people perceive that park, the first thing they think of is baseball, softball. But, and they have had success, obviously getting that off the ground with the tournaments and the teams that practice out there and all, but a lot of people don’t realize how many people use those walking trails. That’s a big thing that a heavier percentage of citizens use,” he said.

Though some amounts of work still need to be done to Joe Cowan Park, Goss said they were smaller projects that had been delayed due to the wet weather. The park is complete, he said.

“It’s finished. It is completed. You know, all of the final paperwork that we have to turn into the state is all done. Everything is signed off — it’s finished. There’s always, I think, an item here or there, just a small punching list of things that we find where we need to go back and finish this or that,” he said.

Looking toward the rest of 2014, Goss said the most important project would be the renovation of the Lowry Mill, with phase one of the Department of Natural Resources-funded walking trail coming in second.

“That mill was really what helped develop that community of Euharlee. What you see out there — it’s rare that you find, in my travels around the state, it’s very hard to find a mid-1800s agricultural building that’s that well intact,” Goss said. “And really the key component missing from Euharlee is the restoration of that mill and the water wheel. ... I think when people see that that they’re really going to be — that’s going to be something the community’s going to be proud of as they are the covered bridge. But I don’t know the exact time frame for completion date.”