By Jason Massad
jasonmassad@reporternewspapers.net

Dunwoody and DeKalb County officials are at odds over $7.5 million city officials claim should be spent to improve Brook Run Park.

Dunwoody officials say the money was allocated to Brook Run Park in a 2005 voter-approved bond referendum that took place years before the city ever bought the park from DeKalb County.

Dunwoody officially received ownership of the 102-acre park in August. Called a “diamond in the rough” by city officials, Brook Run Park is considered to be future cornerstone of the newly incorporated city’s park system.

DeKalb County officials, however, maintain that none of the more than $96 million in bonds approved by voters in 2005 for county parks was allocated to Brook Run.

“I don’t think anything approved by the voters was related to Brook Run Park,” said Richard Stogner, chief operating officer of the county. “I haven’t gone back and looked at it, but I don’t believe so. I could be wrong.”

It’s a stalemate. Dunwoody officials sent a letter to DeKalb County officials about the issue and have yet to hear back, said Warren Hutmacher, Dunwoody city manager.

DeKalb representatives acknowledge they have received a letter, but Stogner said the Board of Commissioners has taken no action on any matter related to the park.

“There’s nothing that requires us to respond to a letter,” he said.

The process, obviously, is not running nearly as smoothly as is indicated by state legislation that opened the door for Dunwoody to buy the park from DeKalb County.

The legislation says that Dunwoody is owed voter-approved bond proceeds that DeKalb planned to spend on the park minus whatever has already been spent on the park.

But county officials maintain that nothing on the November 2005 ballot specified that a certain amount of money would be funneled to Brook Run Park.

The whole thing may eventually wind up in court, observers said.

“There’s probably going to have to be a lawsuit between the city and the county to sort this out,” Rep. Mike Jacobs said.

Jacobs, one of the sponsors of the legislation that outlined the park transfer, said that if it comes to a lawsuit, it would be the responsibility of city officials to prove that voters approved money specifically for Brook Run Park.

There’s no mention of specific parks to be funded on the November 2005 DeKalb ballot. That doesn’t matter, Jacobs said.

If evidence and documents exist that show DeKalb County voters approved a referendum that laid out specific renovations or improvements for Brook Run Park, the money to support that should be transferred to Dunwoody, he said.

“If the city of Dunwoody can prove to a Superior Court judge that county officials promised X number of dollars in selling the bond to voters and those bond funds have not yet been expended, then the city of Dunwoody will get X number of dollars.”

According to Hutmacher, city officials in Dunwoody peg the remaining allocation due Brook Run Park based on the county’s own documents. That the county spent money there is not really in dispute: the park features a skate park and new playground equipment.

“We know what’s been spent. The evidence is in the park,” he said. “We know about the [more than] $7 million from their own documents.”

At the end of the day, intergovernmental squabbles are not what residents of the county care about, Jacobs said. They care about having a vibrant park in which to walk their dogs, skateboard or take their children to the playground.

“People who live in the area – the citizens in the area of unincorporated DeKalb or the city of Dunwoody can continue to use the park either way,” he said. “My belief is that the city of Dunwoody will be a far better steward of that resource than DeKalb County ever was.”