Clayton County Board of Commissioners on dais
Clayton County Board of Commissioners

Back to business as usual this week, which is to say, multiple meetings are taking place at the same time because it’s the second week of the month. Out-and-out political warfare is raging in Jonesboro (between Mayor Donya Sartor and Mayor Pro Tem Tracey Messick and the other white councilmembers) and Morrow (between Councilwoman Van Tran and Mayor John Lampl, City Manager and former police chief Jeff Baker, and Councilwoman Dorothy Dean).

Monday, August 7

  • 6 p.m.: The Jonesboro City Council holds its work session at City Center. Up for discussion—again—is whom to appoint as election superintendent, absentee ballot clerk, alternate absentee ballot clerk; poll worker compensation; and transferring funds to pay for the November 7 municipal election. The council voted against having the county Elections Office run the municipal election, with Councilwoman Tracey Messick implying the county was not able to run the election competently and Mayor Donya Sartor saying the council knows the third polling place in a county-run election would be to her advantage. Other items include amending the city’s ethics code “to move forward with previously filed ethics violations” (Messick); appointing an Ethics committee to handle “future complaints” (Messick); hiring Fincher Denmark to work on revising the city charter (Messick);”amendments to Policy and Procedures for calling any formal meeting to reflect procedures as suggested by the Georgia Municipal Association” (Messick); unspecified amendments to Rules of Procedures for Elected Officials (Messick), “implementation of new Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Policy for Elected Officials, Staff, and all City Employees to both Rules of Procedure and Personnel Policy and Procedures” (Messick). The flurry of proposed new policies comes after a local mechanic said Sartor cursed him out and summarily withdrew the city’s business from his shop. In the ongoing battle between Sartor and the white council majority, Messick teed up a public discussion of the alleged incident, with the business owner, his wife, and their child coming to the mic to address Sartor directly. The councilmembers have not returned The Clayton Crescent’s requests via e-mail and voicemail for comment about the ongoing conflict. Sartor surprised the local political establishment by beating Pat Sebo-Hand in the mayoral special election to replace Joy Day. The two sides have been sniping at each other on social media and during council meetings. Sartor will have to run again, likely against Sebo-Hand again, this November, if she wants to keep the mayor’s seat.
  • Also on tonight’s agenda (packet):
    • The city will present the Jonesboro High School marching band with a sponsorship for their trip to perform in the 2024 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The band has created a “pitch deck” and is seeking donations in the five figures.
    • Three zoning item discussions include:
      • a conditional use application from Ann Doss for a daycare at 177 College Street (60 to 75 children); staff recommends approval with conditions dating from 2019
      • a conditional use application from Josefina Vega and Janet Collins for a daycare at 255 South Main Street; staff recommends denial
      • discussion of a zoning appeal by 33 Holdings LLC/TPS III-Tara Boulevard and Scott Smith/33 Holdings LLC, for properties at 8859 Tara Blvd. Staff recommends denial of parking for “large, heavy vehicles and tractor trailers”
    • an appointment to the Historic Preservation Commission Board
    • fee waivers for Arts Clayton to put on a Caribbean Nights Festival on October 7-8 and rental of Lee Street Park by Councilman Alfred Dixon for a “Garden of Hip Hop” event on November 4. Dixon is asking for a $4,600 fee waiver.
    • a “proposal for future of Fire Station 13 in the City limits of Jonesboro”: “Currently, the County Fire Department leases the building from the City as an active fire station. The annual lease is just over $100,000. This has occurred since approximately 2006. Recently, Clayton County has finalized plans to move the entire Clayton County government into a new administrative campus off of Old Poston Road (still in the City). There is room on that property for a new fire station and clinic. The County has expressed interest in also keeping Fire Station 13 as an active station, but they do not own the building and need to do close to one million dollars’ worth of roof / HVAC repairs to the building. Naturally, they are reluctant to do this to a building they do not own. They are proposing the City deed the building and property to the County free of charge and then they will build a completely new fire station on the property, and also some streetscape improvements. The City could benefit by not having to pay for costly repairs to the building, still enjoy the use of an active fire station in the City center, and have a quality renovation to the property with no City expense. The County would need to know the intent of the City on this proposal by October. The City would not see payment of its annual lease go away until mid to late July 2024.”
    • “creation of a Creative Placemaking Advisory Board”
    • a 16% pay increase for Jonesboro Police street officers only; Chief Tommy Henderson wrote that the disparities between JPD and other county jurisdictions “are neither equitable nor justifiable.”
    • a bonus for a public works employee whose personal vehicle was hit by a falling limb on city property. The city’s insurance company called it an “act of nature” and said the city is not liable; if the city were to pay the $2,372.79 repair bill, the city attorney says that “would constitute a gratuity under the Georgia Constitution.”
  • Moratoriums on event centers, small and heavy machinery equipment rental and leasing, golf cart rental, RV and truck rentals, mini-warehouses and self-storage, various types of automotive repair shops, and tire dealers. Daycare centers would require enough space for pickup/dropoff so as not to block traffic and a written evacuation plan for daycares within 500 feet of hazardous uses. Retirement communities must sit on at least a two-acre lot. Indoor arcades and pool halls cannot hold events outside or in parking lots. Veterinarians, pet boarding services, groomers, trainers, and pet sitters cannot have outdoor kennels. Building material dealers and lumber yards must screen side or rear yards and add buffers for residential neighbors. Used merchandise and thrift stores cannot exceed 4,000 square feet of floor area. See the agenda packet for detailed recommendations to conditional uses citywide.
  • Georgia Power wants an easement at 167 S. McDonough Street (the Cooper House).
  • 6 p.m.: The Forest Park City Council holds its work session (agenda), followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m (agenda). The council will consider a charter amendment to redraw ward boundaries; setting specific due dates for planning applications (second Wednesday of the month) and meetings (third Friday of the month); extending ABM’s HVAC maintenance contract for another year; and expanding the Arts and Entertainment District “south over to Starr Park encompassing parcels between Oak Street and Ash Street.” The city also wants to stop employees borrowing from their Empower retirement accounts for six months due to “poor record keeping; failure to repay borrowed funds and missing contributions bing made to employee accounts.” Some former Forest Park employees had complained to The Clayton Crescent last year that their retirement accounts were missing payments.
  • The city also will discuss joining Georgia Municipal Association’s pension plan;
  • paying Public Works employees double overtime for 90 days “to assist with catching up with grass-cutting around the city”;
  • and an intergovernmental agreement with Clayton County Elections and Registration to conduct the municipal elections, but “the City Clerk will still serve as Elections Superintendent.”
  • Fire Chief Latosha Clemons is instituting a professional development program for FPFD employees and will discuss an EMT training agreement with Newton County Fire Services
  • Zoning matters include rezoning a wooded parcel on Scott Road from from single family to multi-family residential (RZ-2023-02); a conditional use permit for self-storage behind International Discount Mall, which Mayor Angelyne Butler vetoed and Ward 1 Councilwoman Kimberly James is bringing back up; and a conditional use permit for a “youth performing arts facility, rehabilitation group home for teens, summer camp, health clinic, and adult education program” at 5370 Ash Street.

Tuesday, August 8

  • 4:30 p.m.: The Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration meets at the Clayton County Elections Center, 7946 N. McDonough Street. The meeting is in-person only. No agenda was posted as of press time Monday.
  • 5:15 p.m.: The Clayton County Board of Commissioners will hold a special called meeting to discuss giving the City of Forest Park $8,000 for its Forest Park Day celebration. The Clayton Crescent consulted the city’s proposed budget and found that the event has no funding for this year, but that $8,000 is allocated in FY 2024. The “urgency,” according to District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson, is that “they need to get the remaining vendors paid.” Forest Park holds frequent festivals using taxpayer dollars; it’s not clear why an unfunded city event that also does not appear on the city calendar requires county tax dollars and a last-minute county “partnership” to be put on. Anderson, whose foundation recently gave a $500 scholarship to the son of Ward 4 Councilwoman Latresa Akins-Wells, requested the meeting. Anderson has refused to comment for over a year on her foundation and an associated charter school, the “Colin Powell Military Academy,” that has no students, no location, and no association with Georgia, Clayton County, or Dekalb County bodies that grant school charters. However, The Colin Powell Military Academy: The Anderson Foundation, Inc. has been registered as a domestic nonprofit business with the state of Georgia since 2017. Jacques Posey and Mae Sorrell are listed along with Anderson as officers. An Open Records Request to the Clayton County Public Schools returned no responsive records. Akins-Wells is already campaigning for reelection in Ward 4, which had been underpopulated compared to the rest of the city’s wards, requiring redistricting.
  • 5:30 p.m.: The BOC holds its work session, which includes a request from Deputy COO Landry Merkison for a “Land Review Committee” and from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office for a classification change. Other items include presentations on MARTA Q3 Quarterly Briefing from MARTA CEO Collie Kiernan, Aerotropolis Blueprint 2.0 (STRIVE ATL), the Lexipol Policy and Grants Management system, and the evictions backlog (from Kevin Ross and Kelly James of R. James Properties).
  • 6 p.m.: Invest Clayton holds its monthly meeting at the Lake City Community Center, 5471 Jonesboro Road, Lake City. On the agenda, again, is election of a board chair. The last meeting did not have a sufficient number of members present to cast that vote. Director Larry Vincent will have updates on the DNR Building, small business program, Clayton State University’s College of Business Advisory Board, an employment contract for office staff, a memorandum of understanding with Goodwill of North Georgia, and annual bond fees. An executive session on real estate, personnel, and potential litigation is also on the agenda. At the last Invest Clayton meeting, Vincent and board member Donald “Dee Cee” Craddock removed The Clayton Crescent’s camera equipment from the room during executive session, even though the gear was off and Executive Editor Robin Kemp asked that it not be moved. The Clayton Crescent lodged a complaint with the board’s attorney. The Clayton Crescent began recording video of Invest Clayton’s meetings a few months ago so that the public can see the proceedings.
  • 5:30 p.m.: The Morrow City Council holds its work session, followed by the regular meeting a 7:30 p.m., at City Hall. No agendas had been published on the city’s website as of press time Monday.

Wednesday, August 9

  • TBA

Thursday, August 10

Friday, August 11

  • TBA

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Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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