Since incorporation, the millage rate in Dunwoody has remained the same at 2.74. Council is expected to approve that rate again and had a special called meeting last week to start the process. Finance Director Chris Pike’s memo to council explained that the collection $2.74 per $1,000 of assessed property value will contribute to the city’s general fund for city operations including police, public works and community development. Millage rate adoption is expected at council’s meeting on June 25.
Council also heard about a proposal to lease a building at 4470 North Shallowford Road to TopTel USA to use as a call center. City Manager Warren Hutmacher’s memo to council recommended that council approve a five year lease agreement which would net the city approximately $270,000. The building is on city-owned property purchased in 2011. The city plans to eventually use the land to extend Peachford Road to Dunwoody Park Drive, but the project depends on further land acquisition.
Two earlier council meetings started with some fireworks during public and council comment. At their regularly scheduled council meeting on Monday night, Councilor Adrian Bonser took aim at city staff, the mayor and fellow council members, city attorneys, and a hearing officer overseeing an ethics case against Bonser (see ethics story, page 1).
During time reserved for mayor and council comment, Bonser called out the mayor and council for ignoring egregious behavior by city staff, and relayed details of a meeting she had with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.
“The attorney general of the state of Georgia believes that the city has held numerous illegal executive sessions in violation of the open meetings / open records act in effect,” said Bonser.
The executive sessions in question, said Bonser, were held between November 2011 and the time the city made public its plans to sell public lands. Those sessions were about land in the Georgetown area that was purchased by the city for development in what is now known as Project Renaissance. The city entered a deal with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods to develop the land.
Bonser pressed mayor and fellow council members to order new appraisals for this property that the city plans to sell to Wieland. Quoting Olens, Bonser said it is in violation of state law for the city to sell the land below a fair market value. The original appraisals were conducted in late 2010 or early 2011, said Bonser.
Councilor John Heneghan raised Bonser’s ire again when he posted a recap of the meeting on his blog. He wrote that Bonser filed serious accusations and that he hoped Olens and his staff will be able to watch video of council’s meeting to verify what was said.
Bonser fired back in an email to Heneghan suggesting that he remove his blog with false statements and asking him to stop making false accusations. Bonser said she legally recorded the meeting with Olens and Deputy General Dennis Dunn.
“I could have told you that before you sent your silly email to the Attorney General if you had just asked me if I had proof,” wrote Bonser.
At council’s work session on Monday night, Joe Hirsch gave public comment to take council to task about delays for the 911 interface project. When completed, the project is expected to reduce dispatch times for fire and emergency vehicles. Calls for fire and EMS are currently being answered by ChatComm, the city’s 911 provider, and then transferred to DeKalb County for dispatch. When the project is complete, those calls will be directly routed to the county.
Delays have plagued the project which began more than two years ago. The latest issue involves medical codes used to relay patient status during emergencies. ChatComm and the county use different codes. In a memo to council, Assistant to the City Manager Kimberly Greer wrote more time and money is needed for programming on both sides of the interface.
Referring to this project, Hirsch asked council what kind of city continually rewards city staff with pay increases when deadlines are missed.
“Why are they not held accountable for their actions,” said Hirsch. “I wonder if the push to get our fire department is because we can’t figure out the CAD situation. It would certainly solve all the problems, wouldn’t it?”
Hirsch also took Mayor Mike Davis to task for talking to Councilor Terry Nall when Hirsch was giving public comment. Telling Davis that he was interrupting, Hirsch said “you are being very rude and you are not following city code”.
Council was also bothered by additional delays in the project and briefly contemplated hiring a specialist in software development to oversee the project. Greer told council that she expects this issue to be the last one before the project is finalized, and that she had previously researched specialists, but found it to be cost prohibitive.
Nall pressed Greer on why this issue had not surfaced earlier in the project. Greer responded that ChatComm changed their process after the project’s start. She said she failed to ask ChatComm if there were plans to change their process.
In other news, council decided not to participate in a Community Development Block Grant program. City staff investigated the program which focuses on providing decent housing and more to residents with low to moderate incomes.
To participate and receive grants, the city would have to sign an agreement with DeKalb County. The county would then have the authority to make decisions on which city projects the grant money should be applied.