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County commissioner talks government issues
by Caroline Young
February 07, 2013 10:35 PM | 1811 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sparking a heated discussion Thursday at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting was District 2 at-large Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts, who presented council members with issues in the Fulton County government.

The 2013 Fulton County general fund budget was passed by a 5-2 vote, Pitts said, and he voted against it for a few reasons, including employee pay.

“We’re still, in my opinion, a little top-heavy in middle to upper management and up. Of approximately 5,000 employees in Fulton County, only three receive raises,” Pitts said at the council’s monthly meeting Thursday night at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead. “When reality is our employees, who deliver services on a daily basis, have not had raises in probably six years, … It’s just not the right thing to do.”

Aside from the budget, he talked about new proposed laws and why, along with the majority of the board of commissioners, is against them.

One is “re-tooling” the structure of the Board of Commissioners, which would change the make-up of the group from two at-large and five district commissioners to one at-large and six district commissioners.

In other words, there would be no District 2 at-large commissioner, which is Pitts’ position. Instead, there would be one at large spot, the chairman, and an additional district.

“I’m not taking this personally,” he said. “Under the new proposal, you’d only vote for two of the seven; one district commissioner and the chairman. … Everyone should have the right to vote for all seven of us. … From my prospective it’s going in the wrong direction.”

Another law would increase homestead exemptions in Fulton County from $30,000 to $60,000.

“This will impact everybody. … Right now, Fulton County has the highest homestead exemption in the state of Georgia,” he said. “As a homeowner, without thinking, [you say], ‘Man that is great for us,’ but what is the impact on the county government? Devastating. It would mean a loss of approximately $50 million over two years for services that we use general fund money for.”

The law also calls for a cap on the millage rate, which would also negatively affect general fund services, Pitts said.

“Lawyers would complain about the court system, … we’d have to close libraries, take another $5 million or so from Grady [Memorial] Hospital. It would be devastating for them. What happens when they can’t accommodate all of the people?”

Doubting Pitts’ viewpoint, Glenn Delk, who represents historic Brookhaven, said he wants to hear someone on the proponent side of the legislation speak.

“How much government can we afford? The people are going to have to decide how much government we can afford,” Delk said.

Pitts said, “If we can cut [the budget], show me where we can cut.”

Additionally, he repeatedly said he does not feel like Fulton County government is dysfunctional and is tired of an apparent divide between "Northside" and "Southside" Atlanta.

"We're all a part of the city of Atlanta," he said. "I'm not interested in residency of commissioners, the party that they belong to. I'm interested in good quality elected officials."

In other news, Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Kelvin Cochran informed council members of the fire department’s progress and future goals. He said they have experienced “tremendous accomplishments” in the last three years under Mayor Kasim Reed and the city council.

“We have been continuing in our pursuit of our vision in providing excellence and prompt quality service,” Cochran said.

He said there are six organizational priorities as part of their strategic plan to help achieve their mission, including human resources, professional development, preparedness and response, public information and education, and facilities, equipment, supplies sand technology.

Accomplishments in 2012 included filling six new positions in the training academy, which were cut from 18 to 9 people in 2009.

“We hired two additional fire inspectors and one assistant chief to special operations,” he said. “Our staffing levels are at a 20-year high.”

By June, Cochran said every fire truck and engine will have four firefighters on staff every day of the year, which was one of their goals.

“We’ve improved our fire standard of response coverage by 16 percent [and] our EMS response time by 5 percent,” he said. “Last year there were 44 people in Atlanta, that when firefighters were on the scene, they were breathless and pulseless. Because of our advanced life support and partnership with Grady, they’re alive today.”

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