Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation

Kevin Cowling, executive director of Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation, said he is working to formalize long-term relationships established before 2015, when the department functioned as a separate authority.

"I've been getting rid of the handshake agreements," he told the board.

That's what led the board to put out a request for proposals to use the multi-purpose fields at North Floyd Park, which have been rented by the SSA North Georgia Soccer Club since it started up six years ago.

The Rome-Floyd YMCA also submitted a bid, sparking a social-media backlash that had commissioners expressing concerns.

"We received some thoughtful and heartfelt emails, and some that weren't," Commissioner Wright Bagby Jr. said to a group of SSA officials and parents who packed the board's caucus session Tuesday.

"We encourage you to hold no animosity toward the YMCA — and letters to the national Y didn't help. We're the ones who put out the RFP," he added.

Commission Chair Rhonda Wallace characterized some of the communications as "unprofessional and unkind," although she and Commissioner Scotty Hancock said they understood SSA's fears they could lose the fields they call home.

However, the board said they considered the RFP process, used for other government purchases and contracts, an unbiased way to award a lease.

"It's an open process ... It's something you have to do to be fair," Wallace said. "We know SSA was using (the fields) but there was never anything in writing. That's what started this process: We need to know what we're responsible for and what you're responsible for. We just need an agreement in place."

In the end, SSA had the higher bid at $1,200 a month and 20 percent of the concessions. They'll also be responsible for security and parking at events, cleaning up the fields and restrooms afterwards, striping the fields and ensuring all Parks & Rec regulations are followed.

Parks & Rec will take care of the maintenance, including the mowing, pre-event clean-ups and repairs. Cowling informally estimated the cost at about $9,200 a year.

Assistant County Manager Gary Burkhalter led a committee that reviewed the two bids and his full recommendation, adopted by the board, may spell change next year. The SSA contract is for 12 months and will expire June 30, 2019.

"Over the next six months we will do a detailed cost estimate and evaluate the best use of the fields ... Cost will be one of the factors, but not the only factor," Burkhalter said.

If the board decides to lease it again, a new RFP will go out in January and the contract awarded in March. But Wallace emphasized that commissioners will be looking at what would best serve the public.

"The county's not in the business of maintaining fields for other entities to have sports programs," she said. "Nobody was using (North Floyd) so we allowed this, but we don't have to do it.

County Manager Jamie McCord noted that Parks & Rec did not call for bids before approving the use of other facilities such as gyms, recreation centers and the Behind the Levee fields.

"We're programmers," McCord said. "I think we have the right to choose our partners in the best interests of the kids."