At East Cobb candidates forum, cityhood remains a hot topic

East Cobb candidates forum cityhood
State Rep. Matt Dollar said he sponsored an East Cobb cityhood bill because “it was worthwhile to start a conversation.”

Although it’s been nearly a year since East Cobb cityhood proponents put their efforts on hold, candidates seeking local and state office this fall were asked at a forum Tuesday where they stood on the issue.

Among them was the lone co-sponsor of legislation that would have called for a referendum to let voters decide the matter.

State Rep. Matt Dollar reminded an audience at an East Cobb Business Association luncheon that “there was no bill to create a city.”

He was responding to questions from ECBA members, who included people attending in person and others via Zoom.

An East Cobb Republican who’s represented District 45 since 2003, Dollar said his bill—filed near the end of the 2019 legislative session and the day after cityhood proponents first faced the public—was “the start of a two-year process, and it was worthwhile to start a conversation.”

Dollar insisted that he was “not pushing cityhood,” and while at first he supported the idea of a City of East Cobb, he said the supporters of the effort “didn’t do a good job of explaining why it would be beneficial.”

The cityhood group held two other town hall meetings and the ECBA also held a debate, but no other legislators signed on as a co-sponsor, citing negative feedback from constituents.

In Georgia, cityhood bills must have a co-sponsor in the House and the Senate. State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, also an East Cobb Republican, said that “proponents of the bill need to make their case.” She never signed on to the bill and said if there was enough public support she would back a citizens’ committee to further examine the issue but “at this point it’s a moot point.”

In early December 2019 the Committee for Cityhood in East Cobb announced it would not pursue the bill, which also included a proposed city charter and outlined maps, a city court structure and mayor and council terms, with elections as early as 2021.

The cityhood group spent tens of thousands of dollars on lobbyists, including a leading a prominent government relations firm in Georgia late last year.

Sarah Tyndall Ghazal
Sarah Tindall Ghazal, who’s running against Dollar, said his East Cobb cityhood bill “put the cart before the horse.”

State Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Republican from District 43, also didn’t co-sponsor the bill, although she asked for the required financial feasibility study that was completed in December 18 by Georgia State University researchers.

“I didn’t think there was much support,” said Cooper, who attended some of the early town halls in 2019. She said East Cobb citizens are “fat and sassy,” content with the level and quality of public services they receive, and as far as she is concerned, cityhood “now is a dead issue.”

Their Democratic opponents also stated during the forum that they strongly opposed cityhood. Christine Triebsch, an attorney who is challenging Kirkpatrick in the State Senate race, said the cityhood effort “was a colossal waste of time and energy.”

She said she was upset that as a constituent of Dollar’s she never heard anything from him about the legislation or the cityhood effort.

Sarah Tindall Ghazal, Dollar’s opponent on the Nov. 3 ballot, echoed other candidates saying a new city would create an extra layer of government and that Dollar’s bill “put the cart before the horse.”

Luisa Wakeman, who’s running against Cooper for the second election in a row, said “there’s just no support” for East Cobb cityhood.

At the ECBA forum, the two candidates for District 2 on the Cobb Board of Commissioners also said they opposed East Cobb cityhood.

Republican Fitz Johnson said he has been adamantly opposed to cityhood all along, but noted that it’s the legislature, not county elected officials, who would put a referendum before the public.

Democrat Jerica Richardson said she’s read the financial feasibility study and concluded there’s “no sustainable economic base” for a city that would be heavily residential and questioned the report’s assumptions.

“The community was not behind it,” she said.

The proposed city map was to have included all of District 2 east of Interstate 75, excluding the Cumberland Community Improvement District, and a population of nearly 100,000.

Cityhood leaders said later in 2019 that they were seeking to expand the map, based on what they were hearing from those outside the proposed city limits who wanted in.

But the East Cobb Alliance, a group opposed to cityhood, offered up a best-guess estimate in December, and a majority of county commissioners and the Cobb legislators expressed doubts about the cityhood issue.

A few days later, the cityhood effort was abandoned. David Birdwell, one of the chief spokesmen for Committee for the Cityhood in East Cobb, said  at that time that “we wanted to take the time to do it right.”

The group hasn’t made any public statements since then, and its website domain has expired. An interactive map it commissioned showing the initial boundaries that bored down to the neighborhood level remains active.

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Selling the Cobb SPLOST renewal with a back-to-basics theme

Tritt property, Cobb 2022 SPLOST list

Officially, those in Cobb County government can’t openly push for the renewal of the county’s Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax that’s on the ballot this year.

What’s being called the 2022 Cobb SPLOST—for the year when a new sales tax collection period would begin—doesn’t have much in the way of big-ticket items, such as new facilities, upgrades or acquisitions.

Instead, the vast majority of the $750 million in spending over six years (down from an original estimate of $810 million) would go to transportation projects, public safety improvements and community amenities, including more park space and development.

Those major items include an $8 million earmark to complete acquisition of 24 acres of land owned by Wylene Tritt next to East Cobb Park.

It’s the most expensive item on a lengthy list of “community impact projects” that the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved for the 2022 project list in May. 

Another project on the list is $4 million for the repurposing of Shaw Park in Northeast Cobb and a replacement for the nearby Cobb Fire Station No. 12.

(Here’s a summary of the proposed projects; and a more detailed look at what’s in the 2022 package.)

Nearly half of funding on that list would go for transportation and road improvement projects. The rest of the projects would be funded accordingly:

  • $82 million for public safety
  • $46 million in countywide projects
  • $32 million for community impact projects
  • $27.8 million for public services (parks, libraries)
  • $18 million combined for projects in Cobb’s six cities
  • $4 million for Cobb Sheriff’s Office improvements

While commissioners and official county communications to the public are noting that the SPLOST extension is on the ballot, the information is objective, for the most part.

“We can’t advocate for it,” Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce said in an August interview with East Cobb News.

Before the SPLOST officially was approved for referendum, the county held several town halls that became virtual due to COVID-19 closures.

As Cobb voters are turning out heavily in early and absentee voting, county messages on its social media platforms, e-mails and website have been regularly reminding voter of what current SPLOSTs and the current one have yielded.

A video summary opens with the reminder that “this is not a new tax!” and that the current collection period doesn’t end this year, on Dec. 31, 2020.

In recent days the county has been posting on its Facebook page a “countdown” of its “Top 10” list of SPLOST projects over time, including the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center that opened at the end of 2017.

SPLOST critics like to point out the project list has become a “slush fund” that defies the term “special use.”

We heard from such a reader over the weekend, who wrote in to say that “SPLOST funds cannot be used for maintenance and repair.”

It’s been estimated that nearly 90 percent of Cobb DOT’s budget comes in SPLOST funds for just those purposes, which form the backbone of the items on the 2022 wish list.

Boyce was mindful of how the Atlanta Transportation SPLOST went down to heavy defeat in 2012, saying that those pushing for that tax disregarded what they were hearing from voters.

Even in spite of the disconnected nature of virtual town halls and indirect feedback in recent months, he said he feels confident that “we’ve done our homework.”

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Cobb warns of pine straw scammers coming to neighborhoods

Cobb pine straw scammers

We got a message about this recently, and now Cobb County government is getting out the word warning about pine straw scammers who are coming to neighborhoods.

A reader told us that earlier this month an incident happened to a neighbor in East Cobb, after three men in a pickup truck were driving a utility trailer full of pine straw, promising to lay it down for $5 a bale.

The reader said the workers did the job, but then wanted much more money than the agreed-upon price. After an argument, the resident gave them some of the money they demanded for them to go away, afraid of retaliation.

The reader said there may have been a similar incident in the Providence Walk subdivision but with a different vehicle.

Here’s the message the county is getting out to the public:

Workers approach homeowners and explain they are in the area working and have extra pine straw and offer to sell and spread the pine straw for approximately $4 per bale. Depending on the size of the yard the agreement is to spread approximately 10-50 bales of pine straw.

At some point, the workers re-contact the homeowner and say that it will take more pine straw than anticipated to complete the job and the homeowner agrees with the assumption it will only take a few more bales to complete the job. When the workers finish the job they advise the homeowner they installed approximately 4 times the bales the homeowner anticipated.

The workers then try to collect several thousands of dollars for the work they claim they did. In most of the cases, the homeowners start negotiating a rate higher than agreed upon initially but lower than the workers are asking simply to get them to leave.

What to do:

  • Use extreme caution when dealing with walk-up salespeople.

  • Ask them for a business card or website so that you can research the business before they start the work.

  • If possible obtain the business name, employee names, phone numbers, and tag numbers.

  • Check for a Cobb County Business License and Better Business Bureau review.

  • If it is a verbal agreement, record the conversation, agree on the specific work that you want to be done, and agree on a specific final price. Before any work starts.

  • Trying to save a few dollars is not worth it. Use a local reputable company that is established, licensed, and insured.

  • If you feel that you are being scammed or intimidated to pay a higher amount immediately call 911 to have the issue reported and hopefully resolved.

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Rapper arrested in East Cobb being held on fugitive warrant

A Louisiana rapper arrested at a home on Columns Drive in East Cobb after a domestic incident Friday is being held without bond on a fugitive warrant, according to Cobb court records.Cobb sheriff

Javorius Tykies Scott, 22, of Bogalusa, La., also known as “JayDaYoungan,” was taken into custody late Friday on a misdemeanor charge of battery and family violence for attacking a woman at the residence, located on Columns Drive near Rivercliff Trace.

His arrest warrant states that Scott “did punch, push and grab” an individual, “leaving visible marks and scars” on the accuser’s arms.

The warrant further stated that Scott and his accuser were “living or formerly living in the same household.”

Cobb Sheriff’s Office records show Scott posted a $1,320 bond for that charge, but another warrant was taken out against him on charges stemming from a February arrest in Houston, Texas.

According to the fugitive warrant, Scott was arrested on a domestic abuse charge of hitting a pregnant woman, and possession of a controlled substance. According to news reports there, he was found by police hiding in an attic of a home.

In April, Scott was arrested in Senoia, Ga., on charges of marijuana possession with intent to distribute, narcotics possession and tampering with evidence. That incident included the arrest of a murder suspect and others on weapons and drug charges at an Airbnb home.

A news report in Newnan said a Coweta County’s Sheriff’s Office investigator said Scott was reportedly in the Atlanta area shooting a video and “possibly buying a property in Marietta.” The owner of the Columns Drive home where Scott was arrested is neither him nor his accuser, according to Cobb Tax Assessor’s office records.

A second fugitive warrant taken out against Scott in Cobb was dismissed, but he remained in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center without bond late Monday afternoon, according to Cobb Sheriff’s Records.

The initial fugitive warrant states that officials in Harris County, Texas, intend to extradite Scott.

Scott has recorded several rap singles that have received multi-million impressions on various digital media platforms and he’s also released several mixtape albums.

According to his website, he’s released three music videos since his legal troubles earlier this year. Scott also posts videos and related content on his Instagram page, which has 2.4 million followers.

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Nearly 25 percent of Cobb voters have cast early ballots

Georgia runoff elections

After the first week of early voting in Cobb County, and three weeks after absentee voting began, Cobb Elections figures show nearly a quarter of registered voters in the county have cast their ballots.

Through Saturday’s early voting, a total of 49,354 voters cast their ballots at nine locations.

In addition, 86,302 absentee ballots have been returned, out of more than 172,000 requested by county voters.

That’s 135,656 voters in all out of the roughly 520,000 registered voters in Cobb County who have voted.

Early voting continues the next two weeks and includes two more locations, in Powder Springs and Kennesaw. The East Cobb Government Service Center (4400 Lower Roswell Road) and The Art Place (3320 Sandy Plains Road) continue as early voting locations, from 7-7 Monday-Friday this week and next, and this Saturday from 8-5.

Thus far, 5,924 people have voted at The Art Place, and 6,347 at the East Cobb government center.

Cobb GIS has developed an an interactive map of estimated wait times and as of mid-afternoon Monday those were 105 minutes at the East Cobb government center and 45 minutes at The Art Place.

Voters can go to any early voting location regardless of where they live, or drop off absentee ballots at any of 16 secure drop boxes in the county, including four in East Cobb (see links below). They’re open 24/7 until 7 p.m. on Nov. 3, when the polls close on election day.

Absentee ballot applications can be requested through Oct. 30 from Cobb Elections by clicking here. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has created an absentee ballot tracker that lets you follow the status of that ballot after you return your application.

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More than 3K Cobb small businesses get federal relief grants

Cobb small business grants

Last week the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved spending $40 million in federal CARES Act funds to help more than 3,000 small businesses with relief grants.

Those grants are being used primarily to pay and hire employees, and can be used to meet other basic expenses, such as rent and utilities.

The vote was 5-0, and came after commissioners reworked the terms of a memorandum of understanding to distribute the remainder of an original $50 million allotment for businesses suffering from COVID-19 shutdowns.

Commissioners approved $7.5 million in relief grants in July to 409 businesses. Those recipients were chosen by a committee chosen by Select Cobb, the economic development office of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, which was hired by the county to distribute the funds.

Many of the applicants had received federal relief funding under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) or through the U.S. Small Business Administration, which wasn’t originally permitted in order to get a county CARES Act grant.

Commissioners then voted to relax that requirement, and more than 3,000 small businesses applied.

Amounts varied depending on whether a business had received PPP/SBA funding. The general limit on those businesses was $11,700, while the top tier for businesses who had not received other aid was $20,000.

A total of 3,647 businesses were approved for the CARES Act funds from the county and are listed as follows:

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Six Cobb seniors receive ‘lifetime achievement’ proclamations

Cobb seniors lifetime achievement

Submitted information and photos:

The Senior Citizen Council of Cobb County celebrated National Senior Citizen Day by selecting six outstanding Cobb senior citizens to receive Life Achievement proclamations from Cobb County. These distinguished individuals were presented with their proclamations in a ceremony
at the Cobb Board of Commissioners meeting on October 13.

The Life Achievement award recipients were called up separately and Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Keli Gambrill read their individual proclamations aloud. The six honorees were Dr. Julie Bolen, Dr. Betty Ann Cook, Ms.Shelle O’Loughlin, Ms. Jessica Townley, Ms. Jeanene Abernathy, and Ms. Mildred White (who was unable to attend).

All of the honorees have a lifetime of professional accomplishment and years of devotion to the betterment of the Cobb community. A video of the awards ceremony can be accessed at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8U_bsby-WQ&t=278s.

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Heavy early voting turnout includes both East Cobb locations

Cobb early voting lines

The two early voting locations in East Cobb reported some of the biggest turnouts in the county through most of the first week.

According to numbers compiled by Cobb Elections, a total of 32,134 people cast their votes in person at the county’s nine early voting locations through Thursday.

That’s a new record, and compares to 14,288 for a similar period in 2016 and 5,536 in 2012.

At the East Cobb Government Service Center, there were 3,954 ballots cast during from Monday-Thursday, and 3,643 at The Art Place-Mountain View.

Although waiting lines were longer earlier in the week—as elections officials observed social-distancing measures and sorted through some technical issues—more voters turned out later in the week.

More than 1,000 people turned out on Wednesday and Thursday at both East Cobb locations after those numbers were in triple figures on Monday and Tuesday.

Some lines on Monday were several hours in some places, and polling managers were providing occasional updates during the day on a Cobb GIS interactive map.

On Friday, those wait times were an hour or two at the East Cobb locations, but elections officials have said voters can go to any location in the county regardless of where they live.

Saturday was the first of two weekend days for early voting, and as of 1 p.m. the estimated wait time at The Art Place is 45 minutes and at the East Cobb government center it’s 30 minutes.

Early voting will take place Monday-Friday for the next two weeks from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and next Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all of the existing locations.

As was the case during the primary, however, more people have already voted via absentee ballot. A total of 69,394 absentee ballots have been returned to Cobb Elections, which has sent out 169,868 absentee ballots upon request.

Absentee ballot applications can be requested through Oct. 30 from Cobb Elections by clicking here. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has created an absentee ballot tracker that lets you follow the status of that ballot after you return your application.

More information about absentee balloting can be found at the top story link below, including drop box locations that are open 24/7 until the polls close on election day, Nov. 3.

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PHOTOS: An East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

Submitted information and photos:

On Friday, October 16th, The Janice Overbeck Real Estate Team held an appreciation barbeque lunch to honor local police, firemen, EMT’s and military personnel. The Capital City Home Loans grilling food truck served up burgers and hotdogs with a variety of sides sponsored by other local partners.

Attendees were welcome to use the “social distancing patio” to enjoy their meal or take it on the road. Event sponsors and members of the Janice Overbeck Real Estate Team had a great time serving the 85+ guests and appreciating them for what they do day-to-day.

Additional sponsors for the event included: Arrow Exterminators, First American Home Warranty, Amerispec Home Inspection, Chick-fil-A East Lake, Panera Bread and Perrie & Associates. Local Cobb County and surrounding area first responders, police, fire, detective units and military were all invited. Lunch was also packed up and delivered to Cobb County 911 dispatch.

For more information on community events at the Janice Overbeck Team office, visit: www.JaniceOverbeck.com.

East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

East Cobb public safety appreciation luncheon

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Sprayberry Arts and Crafts Show cancelled due to COVID

Sprayberry Craft Show, East Cobb weekend events

The organizers of the Sprayberry PTSA Arts & Crafts Show were holding out hope of having their 38th event later in November, and had been holding some virtual shopping events for customers and to help out vendors.

But on Friday the Sprayberry PTSA announced the show would not be going on after all, joining most other holiday craft shows in the East Cobb area in sitting out this year. 

Here’s the message sent out on Friday:

Many of our crafters did not feel comfortable participating given COVID-19 concerns and we share their concern as well as the concern we have for our shoppers and volunteers. We realize that while some will support our decision, others will not. Please know it was made with much consideration, discussion, and thought. We appreciate all the support that has been provided to our school through the attendance of the Arts & Crafts Show for 37 years. We have been able to provide thousands of dollars in student scholarships, teacher grants, and support programs throughout our school; benefitting our teachers, students, and families. Our 38th show will take place in November 2021 and we can’t wait to see you there!

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Delta Credit Union delivers care packages to Sedalia Park ES

Delta Credit Union packages Sedalia Park
From left, Delta Community Credit Union Manager Jill Dent, Sedalia Park Elementary School Assistant Principal Kahilah Rachel and Sedalia Park Elementary Support Staff Specialist Aunquize Perkins

Submitted information and photo:

To show gratitude for teachers’ ongoing commitment to quality education during the COVID-19 health crisis, Delta Community Credit Union’s East Cobb location recently delivered care packages to teachers at Sedalia Park Elementary School. 

The manager of the Delta Community branch on Johnson Ferry Road presented gift bags with snacks and personal supplies, such as hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, and personalized thank you notes for the school’s teachers and support personnel.

“Thank you for giving so much of your time, and your heart, to children and our community,” said Jill Dent, manager of Delta Community’s Johnson Ferry Road branch. “This year, we are especially grateful for all you are doing, every day, for students in East Cobb.”

Sedalia Park Elementary, located at 2230 Lower Roswell Road, is one of 18 schools that Delta Community serves as a Partner in Education. The credit union, which is the largest in Georgia, has three branches and administrative headquarters in Cobb County.

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Cobb Animal Shelter closes temporarily for ‘unknown illness’

Cobb animal shelter closes

Cobb County government said Friday afternoon that the county animal shelter has closed temporarily because “an unknown illness has affected dogs and cats in the shelter.”

The county said in the announcement that the University of Georgia is conducting tests with the results coming early next week.

Until then, adoption appointments with the public are being cancelled.

The shelter, located in the Cobb government services complex on County Services Road west of Marietta, closed for two weeks last October due to a strep zoo outbreak.

Two dogs at the shelter died from the contagious virus and the facility was thoroughly cleaned.

The Cobb Department of Animal Services was to have launched an online appointment booking option starting Tuesday.

The shelter has been open to the public for adoption and animal surrender only by appointment since COVID-19 closures in the spring.

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