Austin ES Rebuild – Dunwoody Senior Baseball Fields


Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

ESPLOST IV (2012-2017) passed 5 years ago and included $18.5 million for an Austin elementary school replacement. Since then, there has been quite a lot of discussion around how big to make the new Austin ES and where to build it. As reported by Dunwoody Senior Baseball, the plan is to rebuild Austin Elementary at the site of the senior baseball fields and move Senior Baseball to some of the fields at Peachtree Charter Middle School.

Jerry Weiner, president of Dunwoody Senior Baseball, is asking people to consider the affect on Senior Baseball in Dunwoody. Mr. Weiner has created a website where people can get more information and voice their opposition to this plan, visit http://FriendsofDunwoodyParks.com.

Mr Weiner writes:

[There] is a proposal to rebuild Austin Elementary School on the existing ballfields at Dunwoody Park and move the ballfields to Peachtree Charter Middle School (PCMS). While nothing has been voted on or finalized, the proposal we received is as real as the surveyors and underground line-markers that we have seen at the Park. We believe the proposal is serious.We have responded to drawings and provided input as to why this would create significant operating difficulties for us. It would cause us to close or curtail certain programs we offer today. Even so, we recognize that this is not about the size of the fields, resulting traffic problems or access to parking. It is about youth sports beyond baseball, about how the City uses its existing park space and about the impact it would have on the merchants at Dunwoody Village.

We agree that Austin Elementary needs to be rebuilt, and the SPLOST money is there to do so. We all want the City to house the finest educational facilities that the School Board can provide. Nonetheless, we remember the School Board’s original commitment to rebuild on-site and not disturb Dunwoody Park. We now ask that they honor that promise.

If this becomes about the location of two ballfields versus a rebuilt school, no one wins. This has to be about what is in the long-term best interest of all residents of the City. From that perspective, this is about:

  • Youth sports. The City already has two very good ballfields and a 41-year tradition of 13- to 18-year olds from Dunwoody and surrounding communities playing baseball at Dunwoody Park. But where are the soccer and lacrosse fields? Where are the kids from PCMS going to play when the baseball fields are moved there? The School Board says the cost to move the baseball fields to PCMS would be $3 million, after which we will still have two ball fields. Why not spend that money (or less) on two multi-purpose fields at PCMS? That would give the school access to the fields during the day and address the unmet need for soccer and lacrosse facilities in the City.
     
  • Dunwoody Park. This proposal will require the permanent surrender of 30% of Dunwoody Park’s 30+ acres. Gone forever are the ballfields, any number of trees and the other green spaces that will be taken along the front of the Dunwoody Nature Center. The City has very little real green space as it. Even if there is a 1:1 swap for acreage, it is hard to see how the City could replace the quality of what it loses. The size of Dunwoody Park would be diminished forever by almost one-third. Why would we do that?
     
  • Dunwoody Village merchants. If the ballfields leave Dunwoody Park, the merchants of Dunwoody Village will suffer a noticeable loss of business. Our crowds run as high as 300 at a time, 700 over a weekend. Many of these players and their families regularly find their way to the Village restaurants and shops where they contribute to the overall economic well-being of the community. It is not uncommon to see ballplayers in uniform with their parents and siblings throughout Dunwoody Village both during the week and on the weekends.
     

Our board voted unanimously to oppose this proposal based on the detrimental impact it would have on our programs as well as the overall negative impact on our community. Instead, we ask City Council and the School Board to work together to find more effective ways to spend taxpayer money and still bring us both quality education and youth sports facilities that satisfy existing needs. We believe that a plan to rebuild Austin on-site as originally promised, maintain the ballfields at Dunwoody Park and build two multi-purpose fields at PCMS would do exactly that.

As Theodore Roosevelt, the father of our national parks, once said, “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.”

Thank you,
Jerry Weiner, President
Dunwoody Senior Baseball
Serving 13- to 18-year olds since 1975

14 responses to “Austin ES Rebuild – Dunwoody Senior Baseball Fields

  1. Very well said indeed. An aside — must we have a large scale elementary school at Austin? It’s already a traffic nightmare on that road in the morning. What about the land where we tore down the old Shallowford ES (former Chamblee MS)? There is certainly space there for a smaller elementary school – equivalent to the seats that would be added to Austin. Plus, there’s already a gym there – abandoned and unused – but in good shape. The land is clear and ready. It’s an elementary school — must it be large scale? Or can we stay with smaller schools in a city that is so congested and land-locked with narrow, 2 lane roads?

  2. From Dunwoody Talk Blog, the rebuild / relocation of Austin Elementary School has become a hot button issue in the mayoral race. Where and how large of a new Austin affects all of Dunwoody.
     

     

     

    Above we see two letters, one from Dunwoody Elementary and one from Kingsley. Kingsley is concerned about the number of seats in Dunwoody, hinting they want Austin to be as large as DES. Fair enough. Kingsley parents seem concerned about capacity and school size. Most parents would like to see the trailers hauled away. Kingsley, based on the enrollment chart above, has too many kids and five trailers. Chesnut, the school just down the road from Kingsley, has room for 100+ more kids, based on DeKalb’s numbers. Is Kingsley okay with changing the lines and shifting the attendance zone, moving Kingsley kids to Chesnut?

    Continue Reading Here >>

  3. How about the city buying a few of the homes that abut Austin and swapping THAT land with DCSS for the land on Chamblee-Dunwoody (the old Shallowford ES facility). The city could then offer than for sale to a developer and recoup the cost of buying the homes adjacent to Austin. Austin could be built on the same site, with enough land for to handle 900 students. And the ballfields would stay where they are, PCMS will still have room to add-on (which they will need in coming years, since they are using portable classrooms now), and virtually everyone wins.

  4. ESPLOST IV plans detailed lots of changes. I am for an audit of plans to what had actually occurred. Where is this info? Wasnt there supposed to be a group of community members that were supposed to be reporting on these issues. Dcsd is infamous for planning, implementing 45-65% and then changing the plans. When does it stop? Where is the accountability? Dunwoody needs to hold the line. Dcsd should follow the plans made in ESPLOST IV. But how much of ESPLOST IV was truly implemented?

  5. How about the city buying a few of the homes around Austin ES? – The city or school district could offer to buy those houses or eminent domain those properties, but I’m guessing those people like living there.

    There are also a couple of utility hazards that limit what can be done on the property.

    E-SPLOST – I started writing this article but never finished, I couldn’t find a way to boil all the info down into one page.

    E-SPLOST Program and Project Updates

    DeKalb Schools SPLOST Advisory Board reviews SPLOST-funded capital improvement expenditures and makes recommendations to the Superintendent.

    Each month, the AECOM Team presents a monthly status report on the SPLOST program and projects to the Committee. After the presentation, the Committee has the opportunity to ask questions for further clarification.

    The following SPLOST Monthly Status Report is as of May 2016.

    Sales tax receipts for E-SPLOST III and E-SPLOST IV

    Alphabetical List of E-SPLOST III and E-SPLOST IV Projects

    Schedule performance ratio (SPR) – the ratio of the approved budget for the work performed to the approved budget for the work planned. The SPR reflects the relative amount the project is ahead of or behind schedule, sometimes referred to as the project’s schedule efficiency. SPR projects the schedule performance for the remainder of the task.

    Cost performance ratio (CPR) – The ratio of the approved budget for work performed to what is actually spent for the work. The CPR reflects the relative value of work done compared to the amount paid for it, sometimes referred to as the project’s cost efficiency. CPR projects the cost performance for the remainder of the task.

  6. Count me as a Dunwoody resident that sees very little value in the ball fields occupying that space. They serve a very specific group and not the broader community. And I understand Dunwoody Senior Baseball pays nothing to the city for use of the fields. Plus, there is virtually no park land in the northern side of the city (Dunwoody Nature Center receives no city funds). I think the Dunwoody Park land would be better used for Austin, with fields being built at Brook Run for all sports, and a traditional park at the current Austin site. The current use of the land is a total subsidy to one sport, for one age group.

  7. John Crawford, Treasurer/Executive Vice President Dunwoody Senior Baseball

    Dear Mayor & City Council,

    Our family has lived in Dunwoody for 31 years and I have served as Executive VP and Treasurer of Dunwoody Senior Baseball for the past 19 years. I want to express my opposition to the plan to move the ballfields at Dunwoody Park to Peachtree Middle School to make way for a rebuilt Austin Elementary School. Here are my reasons:

    · Peachtree Middle School loses 2 fields. The front and middle fields are to be allocated for baseball. This means PCMS cannot use them for its activities. Granted that neither field is in good shape, but the Dunwoody parks plan originally was to upgrade these fields and create a joint-use agreement. Expanding the fields available for our children is what we should be doing, not paving fields over. The move reduces the number of fields we have for youth sports from 5 to 3.

    · PCMS Site Plan Not as Good For Baseball. I have personally reviewed the plans for the fields. The fields are too small and the fields will be too close together. It is well known that the front field does not drain well. The fields are not protected by a western tree line so that sun will be an issue for play. Parking is far less convenient to our families.

    · Conflicts with PCMS Schedule. We start play at 5:00 and practices begin at 4:00 during our largest program, the Middle School League. We also play/practice every day of the school year so this is a permanent problem.

    · Conflicts With Brook Run Activities. There are many activities at the park that bring large crowds that will interfere with our activities. For example, the 4 days of Lemonade Days completely packed the PCMS parking lot. Meanwhile we were in the midst of our Middle School Playoffs and had many parents and players at Dunwoody Park.

    · Safety. The new location will have many points of entry and exit while Dunwoody Park has basically a single point of entry/exit. It is sad that we have to think of such things, but that is the time we live in.

    · Too Far From Dunwoody Businesses. Both our families and the local business appreciate the availability of the restaurants and stores near the park. Moving will be a big loss to both.

    · I seriously doubt that all options have been considered to rebuilt Austin in its present location including building in place, using a temporary location for some of the grades etc. Any inconvenience is temporary. Moving the fields is permanent.

    · Our board believes this moves will jeopardize the future of our program and has voted unanimously to oppose the plan.

    Why should the City care about our program? Every Dunwoody boy (and a few girls) who have played baseball past the age of 12 has played or will play on these fields. Many of the City’s dads played there and our younger boys will play there when the time comes. Some have asked why the City should care about kids playing there who do not live in the City? The answer is that our kids play different sports at locations outside the City (Little League Baseball, softball, football, cheerleading, soccer, lacrosse, and swimming). Baseball at Dunwoody Park was the original plan of Dekalb County 41 years ago and the obligation the City assumed when the parks were acquired by the City.

    The City has been a great partner for our program from the very first day you took over, and we appreciate all the support you have provided. We tell everyone how great the City’s support has been, In exchange I think we have run a quality program that is very popular in the City and the surrounding area. We are 501-3c non-profit and none of our board member earns money from their position. We attract many families to our community, something the City spends a lot of money trying to do. As your partner, we are saying to you please don’t do this.

    We have been disappointed by the way this entire issue has been handled. There have been no public hearings and the City has chosen to employ the protection of a real estate discussion to conduct all discussions in executive session. Given that the real estate transaction is with another government entity, I doubt if that is what the legislature had in mind when allowing such secret meetings. Our organization has not previously engaged in organized letter writing and public protests in faith that the City would do the right thing. Given that you have scheduled a special session at 8:00 am on a weekday on short notice, I am worried that the ship will sail without public review and debate. I think the result of the last executive session decision did not turn out well for anybody.

    Please do not evict our program from Dunwoody Park.

    John Crawford, Treasurer/Executive Vice President
    Dunwoody Senior Baseball

  8. Some facts for Jay:
    Our core group is youth 13-18 years old, of which over 5,000 use the park on an annual basis. We also serve 18-29 years old in our summer wood bat league. Many of these play at the park as teenagers. And, we host adults up to age 70 from time to time.

    The City does not operate any programs itself and relies on organizations like us to do so. Charging us rent would simply require us to charge higher fees. None of us are getting paid and sometimes spend our own money to get things done. We are a 501 (c)(3) run by volunteers. We use all donations to fund scholarships for kids that can’t afford to play.

    I agree, parking can be difficult during peak times, but not as a rule, and access to the Park is almost never a problem. PCMS carpool runs until 4:35 pm each day. Please go there just once at 4:00 pm when we begin our Middle School League warm-ups before our 5:00 pm games. You will see why we are concerned about traffic and parking.

    If you haven’t been to the park for a game in a while, I invite you to join me one weekday evening or weekend day before the end of October. While I don’t expect that you’ll change your mind about our program, I hope you’ll enjoy some good youth baseball and understand why what the City has there is special.

    Thanks,

    Jerry

  9. Umm … why can’t games start at 5:30 or 6:00?

  10. It would be fine if the Sagamore hills area could continue to attend its neighborhood school at Lakeside, and the regional maps made sense. But the maps never make sense, and it usually means 3 hours more driving each week.

  11. Losing the DSB program at the current site would be a terrible loss for the community. It is home to one of the largest middle school baseball programs in the country and to wonderful dynamic rec leagues that provide a baseball home and lifetime experiences for so many of our kids. Please do not take this site away from DSB.

  12. Can Dunwoody residents use the ball fields at Dunwoody Park? If yes, are the conditions visibly posted on signs on site? How many Dunwoody residents are enrolled in DSB? Why does DSB have “reserved” parking spaces on our publicly-owned property and who in Dunwoody city government approved this? Do you offer programs to co-eds? Over 40,50,69 year olds? What outreach and engagement do you offer our residents? Does your board have open meetings with public notices?

  13. This is a note I sent to Stan on Sunday before the meeting on Monday:

    Stan-
    I understand tomorrow the school board is making a decision on Austin School location. Why not trade the ball field location for the old Shallowford School property. This would allow DeKalb to build the new school adjacent to the current location and the Shallowford property has enough space for two ball fields and the gym (that is still on the property. This would place the ball fields adjacent to the trail system and the Georgetown playground.

  14. Danny, The Dunwoody City Council would be able to better answer that question.