Brookhaven, GA, May 10, 2016 – Commentary by District 2 Councilman John Park – As many of you know, the city of Brookhaven and the DeKalb Board of Education (BOE) have entered into an agreement which will lead to an elementary school being built at Skyland Park.
First, I apologize for not being at the city council meeting when a very important vote was taken with serious consequences for our district and Brookhaven. City council is a part-time position and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t change my travel schedule and I was in New York on business. We all have many responsibilities and duties.
Let me also explain why the decision was so sudden.
The DeKalb Board of Education was not willing to purchase the property from the state unless they got our cooperation for a land swap which met their needs. The deadline with the state was May 15. The next Council meeting is May 24. The IGA (contract) was finalized on May 7. In retrospect, we could have called a special called meeting before May 15 to get more input, and I understand that this could have been handled better. Nevertheless, if I had been there, I would have voted yes.
Let me answer some concerns.
Redistricting: We all have concerns about redistricting, and I understand that the uncertainty can be unsettling. This agreement will increase overall school capacity and give the DeKalb BOE more flexibility in the long-term for our children. This agreement only has a peripheral effect on redistricting.
Essentially, we are swapping 10 acres of city park land for the 5 acres where the state-owned Vital Records building currently resides plus $4.7 million in cash and amenities (more specifically, $2.4 million in cash plus $2.3 million in amenities, which will include the complete build-out of the new Skyland Park with a multi-use field, a playground, restrooms, and a dog park).
Every acre involved will remain public property.
The school field, playground, and nature trail will be shared with Brookhaven as a part of the agreement. Also, construction of the Park will begin in January 2017 and is expected to take 6 months. School construction will commence after park completion or August 2017 if not complete.
With the horrible overcrowding within the city of Brookhaven, we chose to partner with the BOE to help provide safe and excellent facilities for all our children. Without an agreement, the property would have gone out to public bid and it would have resulted in more residential development, which actually could have a negative effect on the city, county, and schools financially. It would also increase overcrowding in our schools.
We are here to make decisions in the interest of all residents of Brookhaven whether they vote, own property, or not. My cell number is and my e-mail is John.firstname.lastname@example.org.