Bridge players get a one year reprieve

Visitor’s center plan scaled back, Gathering Place expansion suggested

Senior card players rejoiced Thursday night as the Peachtree City Council voted for a modest renovation at the amphitheater box office to make room for the city’s new visitor’s center.

The renovation will not touch a large room in the building that has hosted senior bridge groups, fitness and yoga classes. The room has been used to program activities that can’t fit into the regular schedule at the adjacent Gathering Place senior citizens center.

The reprieve is temporary, for one year, as city staff was directed to continue looking for other potential venues for the seniors so the room can be used for an expanded visitor’s center.

Right now, however, there really isn’t any other appropriate space in the city for the senior groups to be relocated to, officials said. The Gathering Place currently doesn’t have room on its schedule.

Space is also a concern at the amphitheater box office, as the city is adding on a new visitor’s center via renovation. That move was necessary to save money as the city combined its amphitheater and tourism operations.

Amphitheater and Tourism Director Nancy Price said while she preferred to have the additional annex room included in the renovations, she would abide by whatever council decided. Council’s vote requires the matter to be revisited within one year so the space can be made available for the visitor’s center.

Councilman Eric Imker said the other space that will be renovated at the box office will be sufficient for the visitor’s center for now and handle the average of five visitors a day. The box office renovations should cost under $10,000, he said.

Imker, a notorious spendthrift, suggested that the city should pursue a bond referendum to spend up to several hundred thousand dollars to expand the Gathering Place and create more room for senior citizen activities.

Imker cautioned that the proposal should be far more modest than a $2.88 million expansion that was rejected by voters in 2007. He also said the city needed to be upfront with voters and explain that if the bond is approved, the property tax millage rate will go up commensurately.

Imker also said the city should calculate the exact rate increase that would be needed and publicize it so no one is caught by surprise if the referendum is approved.

Council also directed staff to move away from the model of increasing rental revenue, tabbed at just over $8,000 last year for the Gathering Place.

The theory was that the city should be taking care of its senior citizens rather than focusing on the small rental revenue for the Gathering Place.