In an era of shrinking tax revenue and budget reductions, many governmental agencies are looking for ways to stretch their dollars while continuing to meet the needs of those they serve.
The construction of the new $1.2 million Mill Creek tennis facility in Bulloch County's Mill Creek Regional Park is a local example of two separate organizations succeeding through more thorough cooperation.
"We had planned to build tennis courts in the park at some point, and had begun to look at that possibility a couple of years ago," said Mike Rollins, director of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department. "Charles (Wilson) and I began talking, and it just seemed to make sense to combine our resources."
At a meeting on April 15, 2010, Rollins and Bulloch County Board of Education (BOE) assistant superintendent of business and finance Charles Wilson presented preliminary architectural renderings of a proposed, joint county-BOE tennis center at Mill Creek Park.
Both the county and the BOE had capital plans that included building separate tennis facilities on their properties, but leaders felt a joint venture would be a better use of tax dollars.
"The tennis center will have 10 lighted, hard-surface tennis courts fenced in pods of two each, concrete walkways, bleachers, player benches, a tennis pro shop with a large plaza area and picnic tables, public bathrooms, dressing rooms, concessions/retail shop, and lighted/paved parking and drop off area in front of it," Rollins said. "We will be able to host regional tournaments and while providing a state-of-the-art facility for tennis leagues within the city."
In February, the BOE reached a tentative agreement with the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners to help finance construction of the tennis center which will serve as facilities for the Statesboro High School tennis team and the public with finalization of the agreement expected in the next few weeks.
The BOE has agreed to submit a payment of $275,000 to the Board of Commissioners for half of the agreed upon one-time lease payment of $550,000, and once the project is completed, the Board will submit the remaining $275,000 balance. The agreement outlines a use concept identical to the current Mill Creek agreement for the SHS baseball team.
"Mike Rollins has done a great job coordinating this effort," Wilson said. "Had we spent that same amount of money at Statesboro High School, we would have had just six courts without the accompanying facilities. This larger, joint facility will also allow all of our high schools to host regional tournaments. This is truly a win-win for the school system and the general public. This is a facility that everyone can be proud of."
The Board of Education's contribution is being funded through the organization's capital fund budget, which is primarily funded by education special local option sales tax funds (ESPLOST) that by law may only be used for expenditures of this type. It is separate from the school system's general fund budget.
Rollins said one would have to go to Savannah or Macon to find the same type of recreational facilities that are available in Statesboro.
"Just this past Saturday, there was an ultimate Frisbee tournament and a softball tournament at Mill Creek, and a very large, regional track meet at Statesboro High School," Rollins said. "We have a wonderful quality of life here in Bulloch County, which is clearly enhanced when organizations can work together to make the most of their resources."
Rollins said paving of the courts should begin this week, and facility is expected to be completed in time for use this summer. It is located directly across from Splash in the Boro.