The Brookhaven City Council set the gears in motion at its Sept. 10 meeting to begin construction of a new pool at Briarwood Park. The move marks the first major capital project to be funded by the $40 million parks bond approved by voters last year.

The council voted unanimously to give Mayor John Ernst the authority to enter into a contract not to exceed $3.5 million with Waterworks Aqua Design LLC to build the new pool at the park at 2235 Briarwood Way. The contract calls for work to be completed in time for the new pool to be open by Memorial Day 2020.

The new pool will include a competitive section with 75-foot long lanes for swim competitions and lap swimmers and a recreational swim area with spray features. A new pool house is also part of the project and will be 4,000 square feet with restrooms, locker rooms, concessions, a ticket office and a lifeguard room.

Councilmember Linley Jones questioned why the council was only voting to approve the $3.5 million cost proposal and giving the mayor the authority to approve the contract rather than voting on the final contract.

“I don’t feel like I can abdicate my responsibility on a contract this size,” she said, adding she wanted to ensure the process is transparent to the public.

The design for the new Briarwood Park swimming pool shown in blue includes a competitive section for swim teams and lap swimmers and a  shallow, recreational area. Other amenities will include tables with umbrellas, a pavilion, lounge chairs and bleachers. Click to enlarge. (City of Brookhaven)

City Manager Christian Sigman explained this was the same process the council used to approve funding for construction of the $15 million public safety headquarters set to break ground Sept. 13.

Construction contracts can be several inches thick and take a long time to get through with many minor details still to be finalized, he said. Giving the mayor the authority to sign the contract expedites the process to get construction on the pool started soon and finished by next May.

Jones eventually agreed with Assistant City Manager and CFO Steve Chapman’s recommendation that the City Council vote to give the mayor the authority to approve the contract now and then the council can vote to “ratify” — or give final approval — to the contract at their next meeting in two weeks. Doing this does not hold up the construction timeline, Chapman explained.

But before voting to give Ernst the green light to move forward on the contract, the council had to first approve an amended Briarwood Park master plan because it differs than what was approved by voters in 2018.

The $40 million parks bond designated approximately $7 million to Briarwood Park, with nearly $1.3 million to be spent just renovations to the pool and pool house.

The decision to build a new pool and pool house was made by the Parks Bond Oversight Committee in May. Members determined it would be more cost effective to build a new pool rather than renovate the current one because of significant costs associated with bringing the existing pool up to current state health codes and standards, according to Parks and Recreation Director Brian Borden.

The committee then gave Lose Design the go-ahead to design the new pool and pool house. Borden said the parks department and design firm worked with community members including the Briarwood Barracudas swim team to come up with the pool’s final design.

Briarwood Park’s original master plan approved in 2016 included only renovations for the swimming pool and pool house. (City of Brookhaven)

Sigman explained a resolution approving the master plan change was needed to “make sure [the city] meets the ballot language” voted on and approved by voters in November. Similar resolutions are expected for future parks bond projects because of changes needing to be made to original plans based on issues like engineering and construction costs.

The resolution is also intended to stave off blowback from residents who may argue the council is not building what was included in the master plans approved in the parks bond referendum, Sigman added.

Ernst said he blew the whistle on Labor Day to close the current Briarwood Park pool and was looking forward to beginning next year’s swimming pool season with a new pool.

Since he took office as mayor, Ernst said he heard consistently from residents wanting a new Briarwood Park pool after it had been neglected for many years under DeKalb County’s watch. And now the city was going to deliver, he said.

Jones and Park praised the project and the joy they expected the new pool would provide residents who have wanted an updated facility for some time.

Councilmember Bates Mattison and Joe Gebbia, who have been on the council since the city was founded 7 years ago, said this kind of project was why Brookhaven became a city.

“When we started this city, this pool had been closed for two years,” Mattison said. “DeKalb County had no funding and couldn’t get it open … and now it is our most popular pool.”

“This is a really proud moment,” Gebbia added.