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Decatur City Commission approves St. Thomas More plans for construction

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Decatur City Commission approves St. Thomas More plans for construction

Decatur Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers, Mayor Patti Garrett, City Manager Andrea Arnold, and Commissioners Kelly Walsh and George Dusenbury discussed recommendations from the planning commission during the city commission meeting on Jan. 16. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
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This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its Jan. 16 regular meeting, approved an amendment to the comprehensive site development plan for St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

St. Thomas More Catholic Church is seeking to construct new classroom and worship buildings at the church, located at 618 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., according to the agenda.

The Decatur Planning Commission recommended approval with conditions. The property is designated as an institutional zoning district, which is regulated by a comprehensive site development plan, according to the planning commission’s staff report.

In the next couple of years, the church hopes to build a bigger school building, renovate an existing worship building, make improvements to its athletic fields, and construct a stormwater detention in its athletic field area, Paul Flippo, a consultant for the church’s project, told the planning commission.

The conditions from the planning commission included capping the enrollment at 516 students, which is the current maximum capacity. The church plans to increase the square footage of the school but does not plan to increase enrollment.

The commission also recommended a condition that the construction parking be limited to the church’s property or to an off-site location that is managed by the church.

In other business:

– The city commission authorized the city manager to enter into a contract with United Pools for up to $700,000 for lifeguard management services. The commission also approved another contract with United Pools for $63,600 for maintenance management of the city’s aquatics facilities.

The contract amount for lifeguard services had been proposed to be $576,950, which included closing the pools for one day each week. To have the pools open every day, the total cost of the contract would be $697,780.

The parks and recreation department suggested a rolling closure of the pools, so one pool at a time would’ve been closed Monday through Wednesday. The Oakhurst indoor pool would’ve been closed on Sundays and from 1-3:30 p.m. during the week.

“We previously had a budgeted amount for aquatics facility services within parks and recreation to be able to meet that budget that we currently have without increasing any money to the current budget, we had to look at how we were going to be able to do that,” said Kim Whatley, facilities operations manager. “We had given a number of about $490,000 … budgeted and then what you’ll see is the contract amount is $576,000.”

“It was definitely not our want to necessarily close, but some of the other options were taking away lifeguard staff to cover those costs and things of that nature. It was a choice between the two, and for us, it was obviously that we would rather cut some hours than reduce the number of lifeguards on duty at the pool every day,” Whatley added later in the meeting.

The city commission favored keeping the pools open every day during the week and instructed the city staff to look at the budget to retain that level of service. They authorized the city manager to enter into an agreement with United Pools for up to $700,000 for lifeguard management services, contingent upon eliminating the scheduled pool closures.

“It’s like a walkable school, walkable park. One day that that amenity is not walkable or bikable for anybody who lives near there, but for kids, that’s a different story,” Commissioner Kelly Walsh said. “For a given day we’ve made it not possible to enjoy that recreation.”

The pools are an outlet for children during the summer, Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said.

“I don’t want to take away that outlet because of a budget cut,” he said.

Commissioner George Dusenbury also encouraged the city to consider adding more splash pads in the city.

– The city commission approved a list of streets to be submitted for the 2024 Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant. Every year, the city applies for funding through the Georgia Department of Transportation’s LMIG program to repave local streets.

Here are the streets slated to be part of the LMIG application:

Photo courtesy of the city of Decatur

– The city commission recognized City Arborist Kay Evanovich who was named the 2023 arborist of the year by the Georgia Arborist Association.

Evanovich is a certified arborist and has 34 years of experience.

“Statewide colleagues of the GAA noted Kay as having promoted the arbor care industry through exemplary community education, thoughtful implementation of the cod’s new tree ordinance and doing so with passion for trees and integrity for the advancement of the industry,” Mayor Patti Garrett said.

Writer Anila Yoganathan contributed to this article.

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