DeKalb County commissioners have made it clear they don’t want any construction or site preparation work at the proposed Soap Box Derby track on Rock Chapel Road for the rest of the year.
On June 12, the commissioners voted 6-0 to adopt Commissioner Elaine Boyer’s resolution after learning the week before that the administration had spent about $90,000 to clear the site even though the commissioners had not approved the construction contract for the project.
Chief Operating Officer Richard Stogner also withdrew a proposed $1 million construction contract for the race facility because it was moot. The commissioners, who have been considering the contract since early January, said the contract was withdrawn with prejudice so it cannot be brought back.
“The contract amount was only good for a specific period of time. It was about to expire,” Communications Director Burke Brennan said, adding that the contract will be rebid with a narrower scope since site preparation work has been done.
On June 5 the commissioners received a break down of the out of pocket expenses for clearing, grading and site preparation at the track site at Bransby Park. It included about $19,327 for a private tree service to remove some trees, stumps and debris on 8.6 acres and about $48,000 for materials such as stones, wheat straw, and silt fencing. The county also spent $14,040 for “engineering construction management” for 120 hours. County roads and drainage construction crews worked 64 hours on the project for a total of $10,304 in labor costs.
At the end of the June 5 finance committee meeting, Boyer told Deputy Chief Operating Officer Ted Rhinehart the board of commissioners had not voted to construct the racing facility and called the site preparation work “inexcusable.”
Finance Committee Chairman Lee May said commissioners were told the work was being done by county employees but vendors were doing some of the work.
“We are doing what we can with existing resources,” Rhinehart responded, adding that the roads and drainage crew were not able to cut down some sizes of trees so they hired a company to do that work. He said they were trying to keep costs down.
“It shall be the policy of DeKalb County that no further construction or site preparation work shall be done on the property located near Rock Chapel Road commonly identified as the potential site of soap box derby track immediately,” the resolution said.
“The policy shall stay in effect until the first meeting of the Commission in January 2013 or until rescinded by further action of the Governing Authority,” the resolution said.
“We have stopped work for now,” Brennan said on Monday. “We have covered the ground with straw and grass seed for erosion control.”
The resolution also ordered CEO Burrell Ellis to report to the commissioners on the expenditures for this project and to forward that report to the county’s external auditor. Commission staff were trying to find where the site preparation funding came from.
In March 2011, the commissioners approved the purchase of the 10-acre parcel on a hill adjacent to the Bransby Outdoor Center for $585,000 from the 2001 parks bond funds. The county has paid $130,000 for the design of the state of the art racetrack, which would be the first permanent Soap Box Derby track in Georgia.
In other action, The Crier has learned that Stogner will leave his job as chief operating officer/executive assistant at the end of July.
“He has committed to remain through July even though he may have to work a some time on a volunteer basis,” Brennan said, adding that a replacement has not been chosen and there is not a search for a replacement underway.
Stogner, who served as executive assistant during the Vernon Jones administration, returned to his old job in September 2010 under a one-year volunteer contract under which he received no salary. Last September the county gave him a new contract with a gross salary of $16,039 per month from September 15 through December 31. In 2012 Stogner’s gross monthly salary was not to exceed $16,039 in any month, his total salary was capped at $96,234, and he was limited to working six months or less in 2012.