Archive for April, 2009

Atlanta Proposes $240 Property Tax Increase

Mayor Shirley Franklin unveileda proposed budget that will raise the average homeowner’s property taxes $20 a month.

The mayor said the tax increase is necessary because the city is receiving far less money from sales taxes and other fees, which she blamed on the ongoing economic recession.

Stimulus Money To Clean Up Fort Valley Superfund Site

There are sixteen contaminated sites in Georgia on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List.  The site of the former Woolfork Chemical Plant outside Fort Valley will receive $5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to complete  its clean-up.

Fort Valley Mayor Dr. John Stumbo:

The Woolfolk Chemical Plant started operations there in about 1924. They made agricultural pesticides that were arsenic lace. In those days, of course, there was no air conditioning and because of the heat, most of the mixing of this dry material was done in sheds that simply had a roof and no side walls. So, as the winds blew through there, it would carry this contaminated dust all over the area. The second company came in there in the 1970s, they were called Canada in Georgia, and they were doing the same thing.

The 31-acre Woolfork site sits close to downtown Fort Valley and near Fort Valley State University.  This site has long been seen as the hope for revitalization of downtown Fort Valley. The Woolfork site was deemed eligible for the Superfund program in 1990.  Since then more than $27 million has gone in to cleaning up the chemical contamination.

In the early 1980s, citizen complaints prompted the Georgia environmental officials to investigate Woolfolk amid allegations of discharge of waste products into a drainage corridor heading away from the site. No injuries have been reported but one lawsuit forced a former Woolfolk owner to reimburse residents for declining property values.

Today, according to the EPA, all excavation of arsenic from residential soil is complete, as well as the removal of arsennic contaminated dust from residential attics.
Fort Valley hopes this latest cash infusion will complete the cleanup of Woolfolk, fulfilling its promise of downtown revitalization.

Mayor Stumbo offers his take on Life After Superfund here.

Lilburn Reverses Two-Year Ban On Karaoke

In 2007, Lilburn tightened its liquor ordinance to counter Sports Fan Bar and Grill.  Lilburn leaders linked karaoke, darts, pool, trivia, and other  forms of “interactive” entertainment with crime.  Lilburn banned all such entertainment in any establishment selling alcohol.  Now two years later, Lilburn reverses itself changing its liquor ordinance to again allow such entertainment.

“Lilburn has matured, and we want to keep it vibrant,” said Mayor Diana Preston. “Our focus is keeping our business community strong and that means a diversity of businesses.”

And, she said, Lilburn — which bans bars — wants to accommodate its young adults, who enjoy pub atmospheres.

And the crime that will follow?

Preston said that’s no longer a concern given the number of police officers and the creation of the alcohol review board.

DeKalb County Releases Initial Marine Corps Institute Details

In the face of increasingly vocal citizen opposition, DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis made public the County’s plansfor DeKalb Marine Corps Institute.  Classes will begin this fall at the Heritage Center off Briarcliff Road in North DeKalb, but will move to another location for its second year of operation.  The County has not selected a permanent site for the Institute.

Thadeous Dixon will be the Principal with an undisclosed 32-year veteran of the Marines as the Commandent.

The Institute will operate on a year-long schedule with “looping” where teachers are paired with students for multiple years.

From Military Ring Info 

This will be a one of a kind public military style high school. The school will be run by the Marine Corps, and its purpose will be to instill discipline into high school students who attend. This school will be one in a network of similar schools which will open across the country.

The World of Ensayn Reality questions whether military contributions towards school maintenance and teacher pay will lead to

subliminal message underpinned in the lessons covertly coercing the tender minds of the students attending The Marine Corps Institute to join the Marine Corps or the military in general.

Fulton County v. Milton County . . . Battle Lines Drawn

Fulton County leaders picked sides this week over the divorce of the north areas from Fulton County and their reconfiguration into Milton County. 

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood, Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, and Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker lined up on the side of divorce and creation of the new Milton County. 

John Sherman, president of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, Fulton Commission Chairman John Eaves, and State Representative Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) argued to preserve Fulton County.

Snellville Loosens Liquor Ordinance

After refusing to allow restaurants to pour on Sundays, the Snellville City Council twice loosened its liquor ordinances.  The Council voted 3-2 to allow local businesses to conduct winetastings and then voted 4-1 to approve a liquor license for a bowling alley.  More than 150 Snellville residents filed into City Hall to see the vote and voice their opinions.

Councilman Tod Warner, who pushed the two measures Monday, said the intent of the wine tasting was to allow a struggling business owner to use his body of knowledge to stay afloat.

To allay fears of customers drinking in mass quantities, Warner said wine aficionados often sip the wine, swirl it in their mouths and spit it out.

The liquor debate is still hotly contested in Snellville.

Larry Rutledge, a deacon at Snellville First Baptist Church, pleaded with the council not to make alcohol more accessible.

“[Alcohol] is the most destructive substance we have in this country,” Rutledge said. “I would hope and pray that as Christians … you would stand up and be against this thing.”

That struck a cord with resident Karl Bostick, who collects wines.

“I’m a Christian, and I drink wine,” Bostick said. “They are small samples, so that you have the ability to taste a bottle of wine before you purchase it. This is not a license to party.”

Johns Creek Sues Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center

The City of Johns Creek filed suit against the nonprofit Autrey Mill Nature Preserve Association Board that runs Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Centerto take over the 46 acres of recreation and green space located on Autrey Mill Road. The City inherited the lease in January 2007 when it bought the park from Fulton County.  The nonprofit has operated the park for 20 years.

“Our primary concern centers around the Association’s original lease with Fulton County and an amendment executed July 19, 2006, the day after the successful referendum vote on [Johns Creek] incorporation,” city spokesman Bill Doughty typed in an email sent to concerned residents who have contacted the city about the lawsuit.

The City contends the lease is illegal, but there is more to it.

“We own the park, we own the liability, so we should at least have some say about appropriate activities happening at the park,” Mayor Mike Bodker said.

The nonprofit has fired back.

“In these times with money short everywhere, we were shocked that the City is spending taxpayers’ dollars and forcing Autrey Mill’s nonprofit Board to divert our limited resources into a court fight,” [board member Joan] Compton said. “We are ready and able to defend Autrey Mill from a hostile takeover, but we continue to prefer to negotiate with the city and resolve our differences in a principled way.”

Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center posts Q & A’s here going on the offensive against the City and the lawsuit.

Q) Were you expecting to be sued by the City?

A) No, we were totally shocked. . . .

April is PEDS “Feet on Atlanta” Month

The City of Atlanta requires individual property owners to maintain and pay for any necessary repairs to sidewalks traversing their property.  The City estimates that approximately 25% of its sidewalks need repair or complete replacement. 

PEDS thinks the City underestimates the number of deficient sidewalks and launched Feet on Atlanta to find out the real number.  PEDS asks volunteers to inventory the City’s sidewalks and give a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”.   

Volunteers may win a $75 gift certificate at Phiddipides or a MARTA Breeze card loaded with 20 trips.

You can download the Sidewalk Survey Form here.  Surveys must be returned to PEDS by April 30.

DeKalb Sues . . . DeKalb Cities and Citizens Pay

DeKalb County has already paid $32,000 to former Governor Roy Barnes in connection with the newly created city of Dunwoody.  The County will decide on April 14 whether to plow ahead with a lawsuit against Dunwoody challenging the legality of last year’s incorporation vote. 

The AJC learned through an open records request that the County spent nearly half a million dollars in outside attorneys fees to defend the County in court or acted as plaintiff’s counsel on high-profile cases.

For instance, neither side has backed down in a nine-year fight between DeKalb and four of its cities. The case involves the county’s penny on the dollar homestead option sales and use tax. City officials say their residents pay the tax but get no benefit. The fight has rumbled through Georgia’s Supreme Court three times, most recently last year, when the court ruled against DeKalb.

The disputed amount is over $9 million. Meanwhile, the legal bills are mounting. DeKalb spent nearly $60,000 on the case last year alone.

“The city of Decatur itself has paid nearly a million dollars since we started this,” Mayor Bill Floyd said. “I would bet they’ve spent twice that.”

Regarding Dunwoody, County Commissioner Lee May contends DeKalb has gotten a raw deal from the new city.

“The boundaries of what was incorporated is costing us big time,” he said. “And it’s not fair.”

May said he would also like to appeal this month’s decision in Fulton over the Dunwoody sales tax proceeds. “I would like to just fight to the end until there are no options,” he said.

Court of Appeals Affirms Municipality’s Right To Permanent Injunction Enjoining Code Violations

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently affirmed the right of municipalities to obtain a permanent injunction enjoining code violations.  The Court held that a permanent injunction requiring a homeowner to remove trash and inoperable vehicles from his property and enjoining him from violating property maintenance and health codes in the future did not serve to improperly enjoin prosecution of criminal offenses, but instead merely gave the municipality an additional avenue to enforce its ordinances against the homeowner.  The Court also rejected the argument that an injunction is impermissible to enjoin code violations because the municipality has an adequate remedy at law through criminal prosecutions where the facts show a repeated and consistent code violations.

Keep reading for GZB’s summary of Jacobs v. Chatham County, Georgia, No. A09A0128, decided December 2, 2008.

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