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Save the date: Chairman to host town hall meetings

Open communication is one of the fundamental elements of good government and town hall meetings serve as excellent opportunities to share information, ideas and input. Chairman Tim Lee will host a town hall meeting in each of the four commission districts this year.

  • District One
    6:30-8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29
    North Cobb Senior Center, 4100 Highway 293, Acworth
  • District Two
    6:30-8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 23
    East Cobb Regional Library, 4880 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
  • District Three
    6:30-8 p.m., Thursday, March 19
    East Cobb Senior Center, 3332 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta
  • District Four
    6:30-8 p.m., Thursday, April 23
    South Cobb Recreation Center, 875 Six Flags Road, Austell

For more information, call the Chairman’s Office at 770-528-3305.

 

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Attend the January ECCA meeting

The East Cobb Civic Association Monthly Meeting is Wednesday, January 28, 7pm, East Cobb Government Center – 4400 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta.

The speaker for this month’s meeting is Cobb County Commission Chariman Tim Lee. Chairman Lee will deliver his remarks on the State of the County and entertain questions. Following the speaker, the regular monthly meeting of the Association will be held, which is open to members only.

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Deputy chief selected to serve in Chairman’s Office

Tim Lee

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee announced this week that he will hire Kellie Anne Brownlow to serve as deputy chief to the chairman. Brownlow brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in economic development, government relations and project management to Cobb County.

“Our growing role in the region and constant focus on expanding Cobb’s economy demands more and more of my attention,” Lee said. “Adding Kellie to the team and having her expertise in local government as well as experience with economic development will be a key component in accomplishing more for our county.”

For the past three years, Brownlow has served as the economic development director for the Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett. In this role, she led the implementation of business recruitment, expansion and retention strategies across five target industries.

Brownlow also has more than 11 years of experience working for the Atlanta Regional Commission; her most recent role as division chief of local government services. At ARC, she was responsible for managing relationships with elected officials, providing services and customized training for cities and counties in the Atlanta region. Brownlow’s team implemented the Regional Leadership Institute and LINK programs and provided consulting services to local governments in the areas of human resources, management and operations and comprehensive planning. During her tenure with the ARC, she managed the development of the first comprehensive regional economic development strategy.

Brownlow earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rhode Island College. She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Gwinnett and also a Regional Leadership Institute graduate.

In her new position, Brownlow will manage and coordinate activities for designated projects with county staff, state and local government partners and various boards, commissions and committees to ensure Cobb County’s goals and objectives are accomplished. She will research and coordinate special projects, media inquiries and Open Records requests received in the Chairman’s Office, respond to public inquiries and represent the Chairman’s Office at various meetings, committees and speaking engagements. Brownlow will report to Chairman Lee and begin her new position on Monday, Jan. 12.

 

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Registration open for State of the County address

 

Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee will present the annual State of the County address 7:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 12, at the Cobb Galleria Centre. The event will be hosted by Cobb Chamber of Commerce staff and online registration closes at noon Thursday, Jan. 8.

Cobb Galleria is located at Two Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. To register online, click here, or visitcobbchamber.org.

The State of the County address will also be replayed on Government Access Channel TV23 and available via Video On Demand on the county’s Web site, www.cobbcounty.org.

 
 

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Cobb development by another name is expansion

 

A good customer service rep is one who says, “We know you had other choices, and we’re glad that you chose to do business with us.” In Cobb County, we’re getting the chance to say that quite a bit as we see our plans for long-term economic expansion working.

Notice I didn’t say “economic development,” which typically focuses largely on the quantity of new-business contributions to a region’s economy. I mean expansion, where you also focus on the quality of growth.

In September, I told the Council for Quality Growth that we need to shift our way of thinking from exclusively economic development to that of expanding opportunities. I define it as creating the kind of jobs that will attract today’s youth who are getting their education now so they won’t see the need to move out of Cobb County when they start their careers.

Local students graduating from area technical colleges might be intrigued, for example, with opportunities at companies such as Greenway Health, a Carrollton-based company that just announced a new office here for software development. Greenway is starting in Cobb with 150 new jobs that pay, on average, another 50% more than the county’s average wage.

Other options might include companies like the German metal-components manufacturer, citim AM, who is investing $9 million in its move next year to Kennesaw. Or, Vonage, the phone company that in July announced plans to move into the Cumberland area from Atlanta.

Most recently, Genuine Parts announced it would accelerate the consolidation of its corporate headquarters with another of its facilities, which is located just across I-75 at Wildwood Office Park. The 1.7-mile move could have, instead, been to another county or state, but Genuine Parts cited a wonderful relationship with Cobb County and an eagerness to stay here and plan for the company’s own expected growth.

We’re excited about all this expansion, and hope that you’ll latch onto that word when you tell people you know about all the great things happening in Cobb County.

(Reprinted Commissioner Tim Lee’s e-newsletter)

Arson hotline offers $10K reward for information on fire in East Cobb Braves critic’s yard

A screenshot from surveillance video around Susan McCoy’s house shows her front yard bursting into flame, after she says a man is seen running away from the scene. Courtesy of Susan McCoy

 

A Georgia hotline for arson complaints is offering up to $10,000 as a reward for information about a fire last week at the home of a woman who criticized the county’s role in the deal to bring the Braves stadium to Cobb County.

The reward is funded by insurance companies based in Georgia who donate to the Georgia Arson Control Hotline, and it is only given to people who can give information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of someone responsible for the arson, said Sam Heaton, Cobb’s public safety director.

Heaton said fire investigators declared the fire at the home of Susan McCoy, an east Cobb attorney, was arson this week.

“The (Georgia Arson Control Hotline) comes from a group of insurance companies that invest funds into this group.

If there is an arrest and conviction, the person that turns it in can be awarded up to $10,000,” Heaton said. “They have a board that oversees those cases.”

McCoy said if a person provides information about the case but doesn’t receive the full $10,000 reward, she personally guarantees the remainder.

The fire, which destroyed a portion of McCoy’s plastic white picket fence, as well as plants and grass in her front yard, took place about a week after she blasted the commissioners for favoring the interests of the Braves’ ownership over those of the county at a Board of Commissioners meeting.

At the meeting, McCoy criticized the board’s approval of using county money to finance the construction of SunTrust Park, the new Braves stadium to be built near Cumberland Mall.

McCoy said she has filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the federal agency to investigate the bond issuance for “fraud or material misstatements.”

Since the fire, McCoy has said she believes it was an act of retaliation against her statements.

Although Tim Lee, chairman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, had previously agreed to meet with McCoy to discuss her complaints, he canceled the meeting after the fire.

Lee said he didn’t want to meet with McCoy until the investigation into the fire was resolved.

McCoy said a person can be seen pouring fuel on her yard and lighting it before running away early in the morning of Sept. 18 in video taken by cameras attached to her home.

“I handed over 24 hours of surveillance video (of that day) from the cameras that are installed all around my house to the investigators to examine what they could find,” McCoy said.

In the meantime, McCoy said she has been increasing the security around her home and practicing at the shooting range in case she should need to protect her husband and two boys, ages 11 and 13, in the future.

“I went to the shooting range this past weekend and brushed up on my shooting skills, so hopefully no one will think about coming back,” McCoy said.

McCoy said she hasn’t tried to fix the fence or plants that were burned in her yard yet because she’s been too busy. She said she doesn’t know how much the repairs will cost, but she won’t get any help from her insurance company to pay for the damage.

“I had a fire in 2009 for my house, and it was a huge fire with an air conditioning unit,” McCoy said.

“When we tried to make those claims it placed us into another category of risk (on the insurance policy). So, I am not capable of making another claim of a fire without it jeopardizing my home insurance.”

McCoy said her family had to leave their home for nine months while the previous damage was repaired. The experience scared her children, McCoy said.

“(The arsonist) just re-aggravated some older issues with my children,” McCoy said.

(Reprinted from The Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hilary Butschek, September 27, 2014.) 

Residents object to Chair Lee’s BRT plan at SPLOST meeting

ounty District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, foreground left, chats with Ron Sifen, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, and Tricia Clements, the coalition’s secretary, while citizens fill the East Cobb Senior Center community room Wednesday night to participate in a meeting regarding a possible 2016 SPLOST. Birrell organized the meeting, along with county department heads, to explain projects on the SPLOST list and receive public comment. Staff/Jeff Stanton

 

County Chairman Tim Lee’s bus rapid transit proposal was on the minds of a number of residents who turned out for a meeting hosted by Commissioner JoAnn Birrell on Wednesday.

The meeting was intended to inform voters about projects that may be funded by a potential 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax.

About 100 people attended the event at the East Cobb Senior Center off Sandy Plains Road.

Birrell was quizzed by Ron Sifen of Vinings, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, and Tricia Clements, the group’s secretary.

Sifen mentioned Lee’s announcement he had moved a $100 million earmark for bus rapid transit from the “Tier 1” SPLOST list to “Tier 2,” meaning the project would only be funded if tax collections exceed projections.

The initial draft list included a $100 million line item for Lee’s proposed half billion BRT project. The amount was revised to $78 million before Lee moved the BRT down to “Tier 2,” where the earmark for the transit line now stands at $72.5 million, according to county spokesman Robert Quigley.

Sifen said he predicted Lee would make this decision because the existing SPLOST, which expires in December 2015, is exceeding projections.

“This SPLOST is going to collect close to $100 million more than the $750 million that they’re claiming it’s going to raise,” Sifen said.

He suggested Lee knows it, too, which is why Lee moved his BRT proposal into the Tier 2 list.

“All of a sudden, the $100 million magically appears for Tier 2,” Sifen said.

Jim Pehrson, the county’s finance director, estimates a six-year SPLOST would collect $750 million. Pehrson said he based his projections on existing conditions, not on the new $672 million Atlanta Braves stadium and accompanying $400 million mixed-use development that plan to open in 2017.

“We’re conservative with our estimates,” Pehrson said on why he left the development out.

Sifen said he didn’t realize the Braves development wasn’t included in the $750 million SPLOST projection.

“I didn’t even include that,” Sifen said. “So you could easily be adding another $20 or $30 million on top of what we’ve already got.”

Clements, a resident of Birrell’s northeast Cobb district, also emphasized the existing SPLOST collecting more than originally projected.

“And the way things are going right now, it’s looking like this new 2016 SPLOST is going to also collect more than what they project,” she said. “Before they put this to a vote before the public they need to tell us what they’re going to do with that overage. Otherwise who knows where it’s going to go?”

Another resident in attendance was Jan Barton of east Cobb, a retired project manager for IBM, who also takes a dim view of the surplus a new SPLOST would bring in.

“As revenues go up, as home values increase, they’re going to have a slush fund for all their cronies, and you’re not going to know what’s happening,” Barton said.

Birrell made it clear she does not support Lee including the BRT line item on the SPLOST list, regardless of what tier he puts it in. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the list July 22.

“I do not think BRT should be on this list,” Birrell said, noting she planned to speak with Lee about removing it.

Lee was not in attendance.

“I would support the SPLOST list without BRT, and there’s some other things I want to adjust, too,” Birrell said.

Birrell: No ‘set policy’ for surplus

Birrell addressed concerns over what to do if SPLOST revenues come in over projections.

“Unfortunately or fortunately, we’ve never had the problem with SPLOST before of it overreaching the anticipated projections, so we don’t have a set policy in place on how it would be distributed other than once Tier 1 has been issued and there’s money left over then it would automatically go to Tier 2, but how those are prioritized or distributed by district or by department or whatever I think the commissioners would have to decide and vote on that,” Birrell said. “We don’t have anything in place for the 2011 SPLOST and it’s already over projections.”

Carol Brown, president of Canton Road Neighbors, said she attended the meeting to learn more about the proposed projects to determine whether she will support the tax, which would go before voters in November.

“I recognize that many of the projects are needed by the county, and I want to take my time to review the list, and I will make my decision a little bit later on,” Brown said.

Brown shared her thoughts on Lee’s BRT proposal.

“I think because so many of the people that are the most politically active in Cobb are opposed to it, it should probably not be on the list,” Brown said.

And yet, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for some form of transit along the Cobb Parkway corridor, she said.

Judy Renault, who is retired from Lucent Technologies, Inc. and lives in Birrell’s district, said she initially attended the meeting convinced she would vote against the proposed SPLOST.

“I’m tired of taxes being raised, and I was looking forward to SPLOST going away in 2015 and lowering our taxes back down,” Renault said.

Yet after talking with county staff about what projects would be paid for, she changed her mind.

“They knew so much; they knew the budgets. T hey knew how it was all appropriated, so now I trust my county government again,” Renault said.

Even so, she is still not a fan of Lee’s BRT proposal.

“I don’t think that’s going to solve our problems,” Renault said. “It’s sort of like when everybody wanted light rail, light rail, light rail. Well, we don’t have the ridership to make it pay for itself, so the way they’re doing this one, my gut told me this isn’t going to solve our problems. We need to rethink this.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, July 10, 2014. Click HERE for the original article.)

Chairman named to influential Atlantans list

Tim Lee

Cobb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee was named last week to the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s list of “The 100 Most Influential Atlantans of 2014.” The annual list, which is selected by the newspaper’s editors, cited Lee’s key role in the Atlanta Brave’s decision to contruct a new stadium in Cobb County. Lee was elected Chairman of the Board of Commissioners in July 2010. He was first elected to office in November 2002 serving the residents of northeast Cobb as District Three Commissioner until April 2010. To view the complete list, click here.

 

 

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Complaint against Lee dropped by ethics panel

Attorney Gary Pelphrey addresses the Cobb Board of Ethics on Tuesday night. Pelphrey brought nine ethics charges against Cobb Chairman Tim Lee in connection with the Braves’ move to the county, but the charges were all rejected by the panel. Staff/Jeff Stanton

 

The Cobb Board of Ethics tossed an ethics complaint against county Chairman Tim Lee on Tuesday.

East Cobb attorney Gary Pelphrey, who filed the complaint, alleged misconduct over how Lee handled the deal between the county and Atlanta Braves to build a $672 million stadium near Cumberland Mall.

The seven-member ethics board ruled that Pelphrey’s claim failed to meet the legal threshold to require a hearing on his allegations.

Lee said the board’s findings were not surprising.

“I am very pleased with the outcome that all the accusations were found to be baseless, and it was my belief that this would occur because I truly believe that the charges were baseless,” Lee said.

This is the second ethics complaint filed against Lee over the Braves’ deal and the second to be thrown out.

Pelphrey accused Lee of violating the Georgia Open Meetings law by denying public participation in the deal. Pelphrey said Lee briefed commissioners in sets of two to avoid holding a public meeting.

Pelphrey was hoping the board would agree to investigate Lee to consider whether he was guilty of violating the ethics code.

“The matter of the Braves coming to Cobb County was kept very closely held, and nothing was leaked to the citizens of Cobb County,” Pelphrey said at the hearing.

Pelphrey accused Lee of nine different violations of the county’s ethics code.

The board denied to further investigate the allegations, saying Pelphrey did not have enough evidence to prove Lee violated the law or the code of ethics in each case, Chairman Lt. Col. Mike Patellis of east Cobb said.

“When you say, ‘This is wrong,’ you have to be able to say, ‘And, this is why,’” Patellis said. “And, we didn’t have any of that here.”

The Rev. Walter Moon of Marietta, another board member, said the violations of ethics that Pelphrey alleged were vague and unclear, leaving the board with no way to pursue the allegations.

“I find no credible evidence to back up the statements that you’ve been making,” Moon said to Pelphrey during the meeting.

Pelphrey said he was disappointed in the board because he didn’t think it addressed ethical issues, just legal ones. He said the board should have looked beyond the legality of what Lee did to see if it was unethical.

“(Lee) did in fact violate the oath he took, which was to represent the people, and that’s the violation I bring forth,” he said.

Pelphrey said after the meeting that the board made up its own rules as it went along.

“It seems to me that they came here with the notion of clearing the decks — and they did,” he said.

Several board members told Pelphrey during the meeting that the group’s decision was constrained by the ethics code that has been passed and approved by the county.

The board spent hours holding discussion around each of the nine complaints Pelphrey made against Lee, but voted against investigating each one after much back and forth.

All members of the ethics board were present at the meeting, which includes Patellis; Moon; Deborah King of south Cobb, an adjunct professor at Shorter University; retired businessman Richard Ziober of east Cobb; Marietta attorney Doug Shaddix of west Cobb; Darrell Sutton, who was appointed to the ethics board by the Cobb Bar Association, and attorney Angeline Mathis.

The board’s attorney at the meeting was Robert Grayson in place of Lynn Rainey. Rainey, who is also the attorney for the Cumberland Community Improvement District, recused himself because the district has committed $10 million to the stadium project and he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

In April, the board also rejected a complaint against four of the five commissioners brought by Larry Savage, a retired east Cobb businessman in a vote of 6-1, with Moon opposed.

Before the Tuesday night vote, Savage said he didn’t expect anything but rejection from the ethics board in response to this second complaint.

“My experience a few weeks ago — I’ll be polite and say — it was disappointing,” Savage said. “The ethics board is not interested in getting involved in a quagmire with the board commissioners.”

Savage said he thinks the board is caught in a political trap.

“There’s just so much pressure coming down on the folks to make it go, and I think everyone gets the feeling of: we don’t want to be the ones to stand in the way of progress,” Savage said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hilary Butschek June 18, 2014. http://www.mdjonline.com/view/full_story/25305175/article-Complaint-against-Lee-dropped-by-ethics-panel?instance=home_top_bullets)

 

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Road improvement project to address congestion, accidents

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Chairman Tim Lee says widened roads, medians and a new interchange at Interstate 75 will fix the heavy congestion and high crash rates on Windy Hill Road.

The multi-faceted improvement project over a 1.43 mile stretch from Cobb Parkway to Powers Ferry Road is expected to be completed by summer 2017.

The estimated $41 million project will be funded by the 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, the Cumberland Community Improvement District, the Georgia Department of Transportation and $1 million coming from grants by the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, said Jim Wilgus, Cobb Department of Transportation deputy director.

Chairman Tim Lee said the Windy Hill Road improvements will be one of the most important transportation projects undertaken in the next year.

The need for improvements was seen far in advance of the county’s announcement a new Braves stadium would be moving to the Cumberland area, Lee said.

Designs have been underway since 2011, and Lee said the finished product will impact commuters, nearby residents and even freight traffic.

“It starts the ground work for what we need to do in the future,” Lee said.

A 2010 summary of crash and injury data shows the area has a high volume of crashes caused by motorists attempting to cut across middle lanes to get on the I-75 ramp or to make left hand turns into businesses.

A crash history obtained from Cobb DOT said the I-75 intersection with Windy Hill Road ranked as the highest crash location in Cobb.

“Widening the road and adding safety improvements such as medians will create a safer drive for motorists,” Wilgus said.

The Windy Hill Road revamp will be broken down into five areas.

“It was really the funding that separated the project into five different designs,” Wilgus said.

The first three projects will be bid together, Wilgus said, with proposals in July to mid-August

There are two sections on either side of I-75, which Wilgus said will be funded entirely by 2011 SPLOST dollars.

The Windy Hill Road West Project is a 0.74-mile project from Cobb Parkway to the I-75 ramp and the Windy Hill East Project is a 0.37-mile project from Interstate North Parkway West to Powers Ferry Road.

Once completed, both sides will have an additional lane, 20-foot medians and upgraded sidewalks.

On the far-east end of the entire project, a 0.29-mile stretch from Powers Ferry Road to Spectrum Circle will add a westbound lane and replace existing sidewalks.

This section will include GTBI grants, Wilgus said.

This first batch of the three sections should start construction this fall and be completed in two years. Wilgus said it will take a year before work on the roadway begins, because it will take a year to move the large utility poles and lines along Windy Hill Road.

Wilgus said the county has started negotiations for rights of way, which will only involve commercial properties.

The second leg of improvements will be a 0.33-mile project across the I-75 overpass to construct a diverging diamond interchange to decrease traffic congestion and accident rates for motorists using on-off ramps.

Wilgus said bids for the overpass area will go out next July with construction planned to begin in fall 2015.

These upgrades, which will use about 80 percent federal funding, will take about a year to complete, Wilgus said.

The diverging diamond will result in reconstruction of Circle 75, Leland Drive and Interstate North Parkway West. Temporary lane closures will be required for storm drainage and utility construction during the time of construction.

Introducing Cobb residents to the diverging diamond interchange was a bit of a challenge, like other traffic management designs such as roundabouts. But Lee said the region has accepted the new method in traffic engineering.

Confusion over the current traffic patterns leads to tension, Lee said, so the diverging diamond interchange will have a calming effect “with more consistency and safety.”

Although he does not expect the diverging diamond interchange to decrease the time it takes to travel through the area, it will ease the congestion-related issues caused by accidents and fender benders, Lee said.

The final segment at the far east end of the entire plan is a 0.45-mile project on Cobb Parkway and a 0.30-mile portion on Windy Hill Road.

The plans call for adding a median at the intersection of Windy Hill Road and Cobb Parkway, placing turn lanes on the north and south side, lengthening an existing turn lane on the west side and adding five foot sidewalks.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Rachel Gray, May 26, 2014. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Road improvement project to address congestion accidents)