Duluth parks granted $1.665 million for improvements

DULUTH -- The mayor and city council approved $1.665 million from the 2009 SPLOST fund to help make improvements at various Duluth city parks.

The funds, requested by parks and recreation director Kathy Marelle are aimed at improving facilities that either need to be renovated or redone.

Eight separate projects were presented to the council, including:

-- $350,000 for Bunten Road Park paring renovations, including curb and gutter work

-- $200,000 for Bunten Road Park trail renovations

-- $300,000 for Scott Hudgens Park restroom

-- $125,000 for Rogers Bridge playground

-- $250,000 for Rogers Bridge parking

-- $380,000 for Rogers Bridge restroom

-- $10,000 for security cameras at Rogers Bridge

-- $50,000 for a new playground at Bunten Road

"At Bunten Road, there is a lot of corrosion that has occurred," Marelle said. "It has affected off-site areas that are adjacent to the athletic fields. The trail is also in need of work as it is used every day of the week. Corrosion has affected those areas and we'll be putting in 1.0 miles of paved trail."

The mayor and city council also approved a bid by Peach State Roofing in the amount of $81,800 to repair the roof on the Bunten Road Park activity building.

"It includes $5,500 addendum (to the $76,300 original bid) to repair the gutters and flashings," Marelle said. "It still puts us under the projected amount we discussed in February."

The city also saw the effect of the Affordable Healthcare Act as it voted on its employee benefits program.

The city voted to stay with Blue Cross/Blue Shield with a 3.45 percent increase in premiums due to various fees embedded in the health care reform.

In total, the various fees charged will cost the city an extra $49,200 than last year.

"It would be nice if it was zero and we didn't have to pay the health insurance fees," council member Billy Jones said. "That's my soapbox and I'll get off of it now."

The city also changed its long-term disability coverage to Greater Georgia Life at a savings of $8,800 and its Health Reimbursement Account administration to MedCom, which decreases the per person charge from $4.50 to $3.50.

The plan also allows employees to go out of state and out of network to receive coverage, while the current plan does not.

One benefit to the city renewing its insurance beginning in June is that only six months of tax are embedded for this year. In 2014, it will be a full year of extra taxes.

The council noted that had no changes been made to overall coverage, the city would have been paying a 20 percent increase at a cost of $282,000.

"I commend our finance department for the diligent work they did on this," Mayor Nancy Harris said.