Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dunwoody hires ConnectSouth (Austin, Simon & Choate) to lobby on behalf of Dunwoody for property transfer and parks bond money.

The City of Dunwoody negotiating in good faith with the Jones Administration and now the Ellis Administration for a fair an equitable transfer of property took a preliminary step to review other legal avenues at the Monday night city council meeting. The consulting firm of Connect South (Clint Austin, Tony Simon, Sam Choate) were hired by the city at a sum of $55,000 to represent them on legislative issues concerning an equitable transfer of properties as well as the balance of the $11.5 Million dollars that were promised to Brook Run Park during the 2005 Parks bond referendum.

Prior to December 1st, Dunwoody provided DeKalb County provided 30 day notice in a letter stating that the City of Dunwoody intended to take over maintenance and programs in the city parks starting January 1. Under Georgia Law (Georgia Constitution Article IX, § II, Para. III (2008)), DeKalb County cannot operate a park in the City of Dunwoody without Dunwoody’s permission. The reaction of the DeKalb Board of Commissioners at receiving the letter was negative and at least one member of the Board stated that he wanted to padlock the park.

Negotiations between the County and the City are still ongoing and this action by the council was deemed necessary based on the negative reactions of the BOC in order to protect the city's interests. The transfer of the properties and the retention of the bond proceeds that were promised to Brook Run, go hand in hand in order to demolish the abandoned and asbestos filled buildings still located on the property as well as make capital improvements promised to the citizens as part of the Bond Campaign.

In other City business during the meeting, Deputy Police Chief David Sides and Lieutenant David Barnes, both from Marietta, were introduced to the City Council as well our new Finance Director, Mr. John Grotheer.

We now have an official zoning map and the Building Permit moratorium has been lifted (except for signs until the next sign hearing).

The issue of Dunwoody resident homestead tax exemptions came up and it was discussed that the initial IGA draft with the Tax Commissioner has the Tax Commissioner sending the tax bills with homestead exemptions applied to the residents of Dunwoody without the need to reapply but the City has decided that in order to be safe in case of legal challenge, they will be asking city residents to complete another homestead exemption with the City and information will be forthcoming on this in the coming days.

Finally the matter of issuing permits to allow alcohol consumption at Special Events in Dunwoody Parks came up and passed, though the Council already knows that the legislation needs to be tightened up prior to the City Manager issuing the first permit.

Next week's Monday night meeting falls on a holiday and was canceled though the City Council will be in an all day meeting/training session along with staff the next day.

I broke the audio of the meeting into two sections, look at the agenda. The first audio clip is from start until just after the Comcast agreement the second clip starts with the discussion on the homestead exemption until the end, with the ConnectSouth discussion towards the end of the evening.


paul said...

Thank you Mayor and Council for proceeding with the acquisition of Brook Run park. DeKalb County BOC and Parks Dept have done an awful job with the Park. The Park should be under our jurisdiction and control to protect it and protect our citizens' quality of life.

Despite citizen input and the EDAW plan, 5 acres of public, park greenspace has been destroyed and replaced with concrete and asphalt by DeKalb County. Elaine Boyer has not re-landscaped as quoted, but apparently used her public funds to acquire greenspace near her home. In contrast, the re-landscaping at Charles Stanley's church and the new Peachtree Middle School are impressive. Check them out.

The Skate Park was intended as a venue for our neighborhood children when they became too old for the playground. Instead, it is an expanded regional facility, beyond the original scope, which operates late on school nights and draws undesirable visitors at times.

I've spoken with DeKalb Police, DeKalb Code Enforcement, and Brook Run Security. Some of the concerns are: $60,000/year Skate Park loss not including lights; Vandalism including Theater, maintenance facility, buildings and cars; Multiple fires; Intrusive lights and amplified sound from the Skate Park; Alleged sexual molestation of young girl by Skate Park employee.

It would be appropriate to close the Park at dark (except on weekends) like many parks. Attendance is very low on school nights when our kids are preparing for school or work.

Also, the DeKalb Maintence group should be kicked out. They dump trash and material in the park. Exposed, dumped dirt is washing into our streams. They speed on our streets and throw out empty alcohol containers.

Thaddeus Osbourne Dabell said...

I hate to harp on this, but I wouldn't be able to if the City got its act together. The point is:

a) I can download from the official web site the forms I need to tell the city how much money to extract from my struggling small business, surrender my FEIN, and attest that a home business meets HOA-like restrictions. Fine and good.

b) I cannot download from the official web site the "Dunwoody resident homestead tax exemption" form, instructions or Answers to Common Questions.

DeKalb County, the target of our collective derision, allows you to file online or by mail using a downloaded form. Decatur has a similar facility. Looking at the latter, it requires little more than address, zip, contact information and owner name (the county gets vehicle and driver information). If not an online submission, could we not at least post a pdf form with a FAX or snail mail submission? To be clear: that would require that the City post the FAX number and/or the appropriate mail stop + address.

Facilitating tax payer access to exemptions would go a long way towards changing the initial impression the City has created of being revenue obsessed.

Bob Fiscella said...

John - I was unable to attend the last council meeting but listened to the audio concerning the hiring of ConnectSouth at the cost of $55,000 to the city of Dunwoody. While the vote appeared to be unanimous, I read in the AJC it was actually 5-2 in favor. Will you please tell me what the vote was? Also, will you please tell me exactly what ConnectSouth will do to earn $55,000? I have no idea. I appreciate your response, as it will save me from asking the questions during the public comment portion of the next meeting.