City of Tucker denies owing thousands in unpaid bills for Fitzgerald Field

Fitzgerald Field. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — The city of Tucker took ownership of Fitzgerald Field in 2019, but records show the city owes thousands in unpaid bills related to the 19-acre property.

The city is denying any debts are owed on Fitzgerald Field. Tucker Parks and Recreation department says they have not received “verifiable” invoices.

Fitzgerald Field is located on Lawrenceville Highway. It has been the home of Tucker Football League since the 1970s. The city acquired Fitzgerald Field with plans to renovate the property and create a sports complex. Tucker Football League, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was in debt approximately $40,000 when the city took over the property, according to records obtained by Tucker Observer.

A memo dated May 2019 stated, “The City of Tucker agrees to pay existing balances for water/sewer, electric, sanitation, tree service and field light repair, a one-time expense, at assumption of property.”

Three years later, the city still owes $15,826 to DeKalb County Sanitation and $6,900 to small businesses for services provided to Fitzgerald Field.

Emails dating back to October 2019 show Tucker Parks and Recreation Director Rip Robertson and Councilmember Michelle Penkava were aware of debts to DeKalb County Sanitation for $5,666, Omar Brothers Tree Service for $3,700, JaCo Plumbing for $3,200 and U-Tec Construction for $10,094.

The DeKalb County Public Works Sanitation Department confirmed on Feb. 14 the city of Tucker still owes $15,826 for Fitzgerald Field. The last payment made on Fitzgerald Field was Aug. 9, 2018, in the amount of $500 according to Ilana Daniel, Communications and Recycling Outreach assistant at DeKalb County Sanitation. DeKalb Sanitation appears to still be servicing the property.

Omar Brothers said the city of Tucker owes at least $3,000 for work completed in 2019. An Omar Brothers employee said the city called in January to discuss the bill, but it has not been paid.

U-Tec Construction said the team is unsure if they were paid for work done on field 4 at Fitzgerald Field.

“It may take a while to dig into it as it has been years since any work was performed there,” said Mike Harrison at U-Tec.

The city has paid some bills, including invoices from JaCo Plumbing and Bob’s Uniforms. Chad Eunice at Bob’s Uniforms received an $8,000 payment in the summer of 2019, after the city took over Fitzgerald Field.

After Tucker Observer asked about an outstanding bill to DeKalb County Watershed Management, the city paid $1,843 in November 2021. The account had not been paid since March 2020.

“There was a clerical error that has now been cleared up and the [DeKalb County Watershed] bill has been paid,” said Matt Holmes, Communications and Operations director, in November 2021.

When asked about other unpaid bills for Fitzgerald Field, the city said there were no verifiable invoices.

“The City of Tucker efficiently works with our vendors to process invoices in a timely manner. At the same time, we have a fiduciary and auditing responsibility to our taxpayers to ensure that we complete all due diligence for any accounts payable,” said Holmes. “After reviewing our internal records and reaching out to the vendors in question, the City of Tucker Parks and Recreation Department still is not in receipt of any verifiable invoices from these vendors. Nor are we aware of any verifiable unpaid invoices from the vendors in question.”

Tucker City Council has approved $781,000 of spending on Fitzgerald Field for construction plans, fencing and water/sewer repair.

On Feb. 15, Tucker City Council approved the latest contract in the amount of $583,355 of American Rescue Plan Funds (ARP) to replace the water and sewer lines at Fitzgerald Field. Helix Group was the lowest bidder. Other bids topped out at over $1.6 million for the project.

“With the acquisition of Fitzgerald Park, the city committed to making much needed upgrades and renovations at this facility. This project will provide water and sewer to the entire park. There have been severe issues with the water lines (main and lateral) to all levels of this park. There has been no water at Field #4 due to low pressure,” Robertson, director of Parks and Recreation, wrote in a memo.

Tucker received the first tranche of ARP funds for $6.7 million in August 2021. ARPA funds may be used on water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

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