Fulton County to close, transfer arts centers to city of South Fulton

The city of South Fulton has used the South Fulton Arts Center for some community meetings. Fulton County commissioners agreed Wednesday to sell it to the city. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC AJC FILE PHOTO

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The city of South Fulton has used the South Fulton Arts Center for some community meetings. Fulton County commissioners agreed Wednesday to sell it to the city. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC AJC FILE PHOTO

The two-year-old city of South Fulton will soon own two arts centers that belonged to Fulton County.

State law requires that a county offer parks and other amenities to new cities when those facilities fall withinthe new municipality's borders. Fulton County commissioners agreed Wednesday in a 6-1 vote that they would close the arts centers Jan. 8 in preparation for the city to take them over.

“We always knew the arts centers were required by law to be transferred,” County Manager Dick Anderson said. “It was just arriving at a common date.”

South Fulton had sued the county for control of the arts centers and other county-owned amenities, including libraries, a shooting range and an amphitheater. The county had already agreed to transfer parks, fire stations and equipment to the city for a nominal fee, but a number of other properties had remained in dispute.

The city already owns the South Fulton Arts Center and leases it back to the county; it will also buy the Southwest Arts Center. Both arts centers will cost South Fulton a combined $3,210, or $100 an acre.

The city will need some time after the Jan. 8 closure before the centers reopen. They are currently scheduled to reopen Feb. 29.

Anderson said the county will continue to pay the centers’ six full-time and 25 part-time employees through Feb. 3, and the county may continue to offer some classes in January, while South Fulton is transitioning its programming. The employees will have the opportunity to apply for jobs with the city.

Another South Fulton spokesperson, Gary Leftwich, said the city would offer robust options with new partners, including Serenbe and the Atlanta Opera. He said the arts offerings would help the city make good on its promise to improve the quality of life for local residents.

“This is huge for us,” he said.

The county will continue to own and operate three arts centers — the Abernathy Arts Center in Sandy Springs, the West End Arts Center in Atlanta and the Aviation Community Cultural Center in unincorporated Fulton County. There are no plans to close or sell any of those buildings.

Sharon Whitmore, Fulton’s chief financial officer, said the county plans to spend about $700,000 that was being used to program the South Fulton and Southwest arts centers for other art funding in the county. Fulton’s 2020 budget will be finalized in January.

Regarding the other properties in the lawsuit, Anderson said South Fulton has backed away from most of its other claims. It has moved its council meetings — which were held on county property — to its own city hall. The two parties still disagree on which government should own the Wolf Creek Amphitheater, Anderson said.

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