DUNWOODY, Ga. — Dunwoody is taking steps to gain more oversight for DeKalb Schools projects after experiencing a summer of contentious encounters over trailer additions.
The City Council voted unanimously at its Aug. 12 regular meeting to revoke its 2017 memorandum of understanding with the school district and to remove the district’s ability to use a third-party professional engineer to review site plans. The contract will expire on Sept. 11, and at that point the school district’s only option for site plan review will be Dunwoody city staff.
Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch and Councilman Terry Nall both presented items to revoke the contract. In addition, Nall presented a five-part plan to take further steps toward gaining enforcement ability over more than land disturbance issues and fire safety.
The plan will attempt to increase the city’s enforcement powers over construction projects, and ongoing maintenance and repair projects, to adhere to city building codes through an intergovernmental agreement with the school district. It will also force the school district to go through the site plan review process with city staff and the city engineer.
This plan comes after trees were cut down and trailers were installed in July at Dunwoody High School before the district acquired a land disturbance permit. The city also found several cases of trailers with water damage and mold.
“We’ve seen what happens when we go hands off,” Deutsch said.
Nall said that the previous contract would only work when both parties act in good faith, and the school district has not proven to be a good faith partner. Its failure to obtain a permit was “troubling,” and there should be consequences for the school district’s noncompliance, he said.
The proposed intergovernmental agreement would allow the city legal recourse, while the previous contract was a “good faith agreement,” City Attorney Bill Riley said. However, the school district would have to agree to this plan, which Nall has said it does not have great incentive to do, except as a sign of reconciling past mistakes.
Deutsch asked for a report on the progress of the intergovernmental agreement negotiations in 30 days.
Councilman Jim Riticher voted against the contract in 2017, but said this was a better solution.
“This plan is moving in every direction possible to force clarity on this issue,” Riticher said.
But, residents should still proceed with caution, he said, because this plan does not give the city powers that it does not already have. It only affects the building code and the plan review process, he said.
“They can do what they want on their land, period.” Riticher said.
The plan also seeks an outside legal opinion on the existing statutes at the state level. The city needs something more firm than case law, Nall said.
The final step in the five part plan will establish a legislative priority to the city’s State Sen. Sally Harrell and State Rep. Mike Wilensky to clarify the enforceability powers for a city against its school district for construction projects and ongoing maintenance and repair projects.
The city council has sent a letter to State Superintendent Richard Woods asking when he could meet for a special called meeting to discuss these issues.
The plan passed 6-0 with Councilman John Heneghan excused at the time.