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County Commissioners vote down land swap
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Dawson County commissioners voted down a land swap proposed by County Manager Cindy Campbell to develop recreational fields.

At their voting session Thursday, May 23, commissioners voted 3-1 against a land swap in which the county would trade a 50-acre Etowah Water and Sewer Authority tract in exchange for a 33.5 acre tract owned by the Townleys, known as the Townley tract. Commissioner James Swafford voted for the swap agreement.

Even a trip to the podium from County Chairman Mike Berg didn't sway the commissioners.

"I would hate to come back in SPLOST 6 in two years and ask the public for tax dollars for recreation property when we had the opportunity to get recreation property for free two, three years ago," Berg told the commission.

"This property is the first property that has come up close to the park and would fit some of the needs for recreation for the future."

The appraised value of the EWSA tract is $100,000 more than that of the Townley tract.

"The prep cost would make up the difference in the two pieces of property," Berg said. "And so to me that was the balance that would allow us to go forward."

To prepare the EWSA tract for ballfields would cost about $800,000, as estimated by Dawson County Engineering Director Corey Gutherie. To prepare the Townley Tract for fields would cost about $50,000, he said.

Commissioner Gary Pichon said he recognized the need for soccer fields, but didn't feel this swap aligned with trading value for value. "The principle we are trying to deal with is value for value," Pichon said. "This land swap has basically rejected that premise. Now we are looking at value for value based in development costs."

Swafford countered, saying that since the county technically doesn't own the EWSA tract it only leases it completing the swap would leave the county with land it didn't have before.

"We pay about $3,700 interest on that debt every month," Swafford said. "We would be getting something for the taxpayers dollar."

"It's unfortunate," Berg said after the meeting of the swap being voted down. "We'll see if there are other ways to make something work. One, kids need a place to play, and secondly, its always better when you can get something for free."

Berg said there is still a need for the recreational fields, despite the boards voting down the swap.