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Decatur City Commission considers tasking nonprofit with managing Legacy Park

Business Decatur

Decatur City Commission considers tasking nonprofit with managing Legacy Park

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The former United Methodist Children's Home campus in Decatur. The campus is now called Legacy Park. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt


Update: The City Commission on Dec. 2 approved the items mentioned in this article. Here is our earlier story … 

The Decatur City Commission at its Dec. 2 meeting will consider turning over management of the former United Methodist Children’s Home property to a nonprofit.

The city bought the 77-acre property on South Columbia Drive, now called Legacy Park, in 2017 for $40 million. With a master plan in place, the city has begun the arduous and expensive task of redeveloping the former orphanage. Currently the property is home to local nonprofits and residents of the Decatur Housing Authority who relocated there during the renovation of the Swanton Heights apartment complex. And now the city wants to hand over management of the property to the Decatur Legacy Project, a nonprofit formed in 2014 to support the city’s 2023 Bicentennial Celebration.

Under the terms of the proposal from the Legacy Project, the nonprofit would manage the ongoing operations of the campus and the implementation of the park’s master plan.

The Dec. 2 City Commission meeting begins with a work session at 6:15 p.m. followed by the regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at City Hall, located at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public.

Under the letter of intent being considered by the City Commission, the city of Decatur would give the Legacy Project money for part-time program management, a receptionist/administrative assistant and professional services as needed in an amount that would not exceed an amount set during the city’s budgeting process. The amount paid by the city would be “offset” by “rental fees and other revenue generated at the property,” according to the letter of intent from the Legacy Project. The city’s current budget contains $164,720 to support operations at Legacy Park.

The agreement would be in effect for three years with options to renew.

Former assistant city manager Lyn Menne was the original incorporator of the Decatur Legacy Project when it was formed in 2014. Speaking at a City Commission meeting in 2018, Menne said the nonprofit “offers an opportunity to support a variety of programs that have citizen support …but don’t really fit into the standard operations of a local government.” She said it would also offer up opportunities for foundation grants and funding.

“Our original idea behind it was to have a vehicle for a committee of citizens to plan the 200th birthday celebration for the city of Decatur in 2023,” Menne said. “We really talked about making that celebration more than just a party, but something that had a lasting impact on us.”

Before she retired, Menne discussed the future of the nonprofit she helped create.

Menne said in September that current Legacy Project board members are Mayor Patti Garrett, Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers and City Manager Andrea Arnold, who serve by virtue of their positions with the city. Former city manager Peggy Merriss was named to the board for one year as Arnold’s appointee.

“The three at large members are residents Meredith Struby, currently chair of the Public Facilities Authority, Allen Mast, manager of private foundations funds for SunTrust Bank, and Ed Bowen, a real estate attorney with background in public-private partnerships,” Menne said.

When Decaturish asked for the nonprofit group’s 990 tax filings, Menne said, “Until this year, the board did not have assets in excess of $50,000 so was only required to submit the 990 post card form.”

“The major part of the funds the Legacy Project manages belong to small community committees that don’t have the ability or the resources to create their own separate 501c3,” Menne said. “These funds include the Season of Giving Project, the Friends of the Decatur Cemetery, a fundraising effort by the Friends of the Oakhurst Dog Park to purchase play equipment, the [United Methodist Children’s Home] alumni Association, and the UMCH master gardeners club. The accounting firm we work with to manage our bookkeeping is currently finalizing the 990 filing for the past year when assets did go above the $50,000 threshold. That file should be available on line soon.”

As of Dec. 1, the filing was not online.

The Legacy Park Master Plan recommended the city partner with a “dedicated management entity” to oversee operations there.

“The [Decatur Legacy Project] is uniquely qualified to fulfill the recommendation for a separate entity to manage park operations and to partner with the City Commission and City staff to carry out the vision and goals of the plan,” a memo from City Manager Andrea Arnold to the Decatur City Commission says.

In other business, the City Commission will be considering items related to the expansion of 5G cell phone technology in the city limits. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, this year the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 66, which regulates the new technology, which is faster than the current 4G service.

“The legislation applies to companies like AT&T and Verizon that want to install small cells, which are wireless transmitters and receivers about the size of a mini-fridge,” the AJC reported.

The City Commission will consider amending its right of way ordinance to deal with “small wireless facilities” that will enable the city to regulate the aesthetics of these devices on public rights of way. The city also will consider a fee schedule for small wireless facilities which you can view by clicking here.