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by Robin Kemp

UPDATE 5:21 p.m.: Adds MARTA comment that Morrow contract affects bus bench advertising, not bus service

The Morrow City Council is considering whether to give the Metro Atlanta Regional Transit Authority 90-day notice to terminate its advertising bus benches contract with the city.

MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher said, “The contract to provide transit service in Morrow and all jurisdictions within Clayton County is an agreement between MARTA and Clayton County. The IGA between MARTA and Morrow is for advertising bus benches, which the City may terminate with 90 days’ notice.”

Fisher added, “If Morrow has any concerns regarding bus stops, shelters, or other amenities within the City, MARTA is available to discuss them.”

Social media speculation that Morrow would consider unilaterally ending bus service is incorrect, according to MARTA. MARTA service in Morrow, which is in the center of Clayton County impacts surrounding municipalities and unincorporated areas, as well as:

  • students, staff, and faculty at Clayton State University
  • customers and employees at Southlake Mall, including Chimes Solutions
  • shoppers at the Morrow Walmart

The agenda packet for tonight’s work session, which starts at 5:30 p.m., contains a copy of the contract, a map of MARTA stops in the city, photos of several MARTA stops in the city, and a list of property owners at stops along MARTA routes. Some are located on private property, such as Walmart on Jonesboro Road, or pose other logistical headaches for shelter upgrades, such as the stop on the sloping railroad grade across from Walmart.

The bus shelter at Walmart in Morrow

A letter dated Sept. 22 from Mayor John Lampl and addressed to MARTA CEO John Parker reads, “In accordance with our Public Transit Service Agreement, please allow this letter to serve as the written notice of at-will termination for the agreement dated March 16, 2015. This notification satisfies the required ninety (90) day written notice to terminate by either party and upon the running of the ninety (90) days from this written notice, the agreement shall be terminated (agreement attached).”

City Manager Sylvia Redic said, “I anticipate the Mayor deferring the item until he has had a chance to meet with the [legislative] delegation.” She added that “Morrow does not want to stop public transportation but we would like to see some improvements to the infrastructure.”

A letter from Morrow Mayor John Lampl to MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker, dated Sept, 22, 2020 and giving 90 days’ notice to terminate public transit in the city

Former mayor Jeff DeTar said in a Facebook post, “It sure looks like the City of Morrow business is back to the ‘good old days.’…Terminating this agreement could result in MARTA ending bus service within the City! I sure hope the mayor understands the consequences of this action.”

Mark Wilson, CEO, Chimes Solutions

Chimes Solutions CEO Mark Wilson told The Clayton Crescent, “Not being versed on the details of what may be at the center of what’s causing all this this, we have more than 1,500 peopleor so that work for us and a large number of them depend on the bus service, so I would just hope that the two parties would be able to work out whatever the differences are so that we can keep the service in play for people who really do need it.”

The council will hear from MARTA during the 5:30 p.m. work session. The vote is scheduled to take place at the 7:30 p.m. council meeting.

On tonight’s consent agenda is a $32,000 ad campaign to promote the Morrow Center.

In addition, the council will vote to confirm Bao Dang as economic development manager at $80,000 salary; consider approval of staff recommended changes to the Fire Marshal position following the fire marshal’s resignation; “approval of sanitation policy and procedures;” and the second reading of the sanitation fee schedule ordinance.

Two other proposed ordinances will get first readings: one on facility usage fees and another on bus stops.

It is likely that the council will return to its work session after the meeting. Both the work session and the meeting are open to the public, although social distancing is encouraged.

There will be a reception for outgoing Police Chief Jimmy Callaway at 5:30p.m. Callaway has accepted a position as deputy chief of investigations with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. He will continue in his capacity as president of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association. The public is invited.

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