Alpharetta City Council decided to move forward with plans to talk with the cities of Milton and Johns Creek about cooperation and sharing of resources for Parks and Recreation.
Milton is eager, but has few resources and fewer parks. Johns Creek has plenty of Park and Recreation assets, including Ocee Park and Newtown Park, but hasn't come to a consensus on working with Alpharetta.
Ocee Park is a special source of frustration for council members who live in the Kimball Bridge Road area. The park is completely surrounded by Alpharetta subdivisions. About half of the participants at the Johns Creek park have been Alpharetta residents. But Councilman D.C. Aiken said Johns Creek stopped following an understanding the two cities had about non-resident fees at the park, drastically raising them.
"We kind of got set up two years ago by them. They made a deal and didn't keep to the deal and that's unfortunate," Aiken said.
Since the fees were raised, participation in Ocee Park programs has dropped significantly, he said.
Alpharetta has wanted to talk with Johns Creek leaders to come to some sort of understanding on park and recreation program use, but Aiken said that hasn't happened.
One idea was to have Milton come up with a lump sum to pay Alpharetta for operations costs, with Milton residents paying the same fee as residents. As Milton creates fields and programs that Alpharetta children can also use, that lump sum would be reduced.
Councilman Mike Kennedy had a different thought, saying talking to Johns Creek would be more productive as both cities have resources to share.
Mayor David Belle Isle said Johns Creek might come to the table, but Alpharetta needs to know who is going to speak on their behalf. "We just can't deal with seven people [City Council] and a city administrator," the mayor said.
Councilman Chris Owens said every time he's spoken to Johns Creek representatives, the discussion becomes emotional.
The Mayor said maybe Alpharetta can invite Johns Creek to pick someone to speak on behalf of that city's needs.
Milton is a great partner, Belle Isle said. "The program is, Milton doesn't have a lot of assets.
As an illustration of cooperation, Aiken asked Public Safety Director Gary George to explain how many police officers were cross sworn with the two towns. George said 100 percent of Alpharetta and Milton officers were cross sworn in each other's cities. "In Johns Creek, we have 14. I think they have three," he said.
Recreation Commission Chairman Jim Cregge told the City Council that for the nine years he's been on the board, it has worked to increase participation by city residents in recreation programs. And the non-resident fee had been raised to help accomplish that.
But , which is surrounded by Milton, is lucky to have 50 percent of its users and program participants from Alpharetta. When the economy improves and building resumes, more homes will be built in the area and that number will go down, Cregge said. Letting Milton residents pay the same fees as Alpharetta residents also will increase the percentage of non-city residents at North Park.
The only thing that might reverse the trend is if Milton builds a rectangular field at one of its parks that can offer lacrosse, football and soccer programs, he said.
Football at North Park has right around 49 percent participation by Alpharettans.
"Once we open up doors, numbers of people coming into program is going to go up not going to be more Alpharetta people, it's going to be people outside the city," Cregge said.