Cobb Board of Education moves closer to a decision on Ragsdale
by Philip Clements
January 29, 2015 04:00 AM | 792 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Ragsdale
Chris Ragsdale
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MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Education may move closer to a vote on appointing interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale the permanent superintendent at tonight’s meeting. The board is also expected to vote on two land purchases — one for $4.45 million and the other for $392,000. Regarding Ragsdale, most board members have either remained silent on which way they would vote or have given statements of support. Board member Scott Sweeney said the board is working through its process and indicated he was leaning toward voting in favor of making Ragsdale permanent. “(Ragsdale) and I have an outstanding working relationship, and he knows he has my support,” Sweeney said. David Chastain, who was sworn in this month for his first term on the board, said he thinks the board is making progress on the decision. “In my personal opinion, I think Mr. Ragsdale would be a fine permanent superintendent,” Chastain said, but he emphasized the decision will be made by the entire board. “No one person does it and we all need to do our due diligence and we’ll make our decision,” Chastain said. According to Brad Wheeler, board vice chairman, the board is required to notify Ragsdale of its intent by March 15. Chastain said the board is hoping to either “meet that (deadline) or beat it,” but added it takes time to make a decision on such a complex issue. “You need time to think, time to discuss and maybe time to think some more,” Chastain said. Wheeler said he doesn’t expect the vote to be delayed all the way to the March 15 deadline and said he doesn’t have any reason not to vote for Ragsdale. “There’s going to be discussion,” Wheeler said. “I’m going to be open to all of whatever goes on, but I’ll say I like the job he’s done. I think he’s done an excellent job.” Board member David Morgan would not say how he intends to vote, and said the board is making sure it is doing a thorough job. “I have to make sure that all conversations I have, first and foremost, are with the people I serve with before I give any declarations to the media or to the public,” Morgan said. Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn, speaking for himself and not for the board, said he hopes to have a final vote by the Feb. 11 work session meeting. Scamihorn has previously stated he is in full support of making Ragsdale the permanent superintendent. “Speaking for myself, not as chair, my hope is that we can answer any questions or address any issues that a board member might have and then … enter into a contract negotiation if the majority of the board so desires at (today’s) meeting,” Scamihorn said. He said he hopes the board will be able to make its final vote at its Feb. 11 meeting. Board member David Banks said he would vote in favor of making Ragsdale permanent and echoed Scamihorn’s prediction of when the decision might be made. “We possibly — this is just speculation on my part — we possibly could be at a point where we’re ready to formalize the contract (and) probably vote on it next month,” Banks said. Board member Susan Thayer did not return calls. The school board is also expected to discuss two land purchases during a closed session at its meeting tonight before voting on final approval of the purchases during the open portion of the meeting. At the board’s Jan. 14 meeting, it took a step forward on a $4.45 million land purchase for the rebuild of Mountain View Elementary School in northeast Cobb and a 1.8 acre purchase adjacent to Eastvalley Elementary School on Lower Roswell Road for $392,000. While no official action was taken Jan. 14, the board heard the details of the proposed purchase and agreed to vote at tonight’s meeting. The $4.45 million purchase would be for two parcels on Sandy Plains Road totaling 14.3 acres. The land for Mountain View would be paid for out of SPLOST IV funds while the money for Eastvalley would come out of the general fund.
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Chatterbox: Dealership to sponsor KSU athletic program
by MDJ staff
January 29, 2015 04:00 AM | 632 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Dan Papp, President of Kennesaw State University, stands with T. Scott Jordan, general manager of Carl Black of Kennesaw, Vaughn Williams, athletics director for KSU, and Sturgis, KSU’s mascot.
From left, Dan Papp, President of Kennesaw State University, stands with T. Scott Jordan, general manager of Carl Black of Kennesaw, Vaughn Williams, athletics director for KSU, and Sturgis, KSU’s mascot.
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Kennesaw State University announced Wednesday that local car dealership Carl Black Chevrolet Buick GMC has agreed to a three-year sponsorship of the school’s athletic program. As a part of the agreement, the dealership has agreed to give the school $225,000 per year, according to Al Barba Jr., KSU’s director of athletic communications. “We are really excited to sign a deal of this caliber and with a dealer that is so visible in the community,” said Lauren Katovsky, assistant athletics director for corporate sales and marketing. “Carl Black’s experience working with other universities is vital to Kennesaw State, and Carl Black of Kennesaw will have an enhanced presence at our events and on campus in addition to providing a ‘mascot mobile’ for Sturgis, our live owl mascot.” According to a news release on the announcement, Carl Black will get naming rights to the north stage at Fifth Third Bank Stadium and will be the “Official Automobile Provider of Kennesaw State Athletics.” The school will also put up signage for Carl Black at the stadium, the KSU Convocation Center, Bailey Park and Stillwell Stadium. “I am truly excited and grateful for the opportunity to be involved with Kennesaw State Athletics,” said T. Scott Jordan, general manager of Carl Black of Kennesaw and operating partner of Carl Black Automotive Group. “Like Kennesaw State, Carl Black strives to make a positive, meaningful impact on the community and to provide a high quality experience for the people we come in contact with. Now is an exciting time of growth and opportunity for both Kennesaw State and Carl Black, and our combined efforts will certainly be a success for both us and for the community.”
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Georgia House leaders propose transportation plan
by Ricky Leroux
January 29, 2015 04:00 AM | 544 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston waves after being re-elected on the first day of the legislative session in the House Chamber of the State Capitol in Atlanta on Jan. 12. <br>AP
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston waves after being re-elected on the first day of the legislative session in the House Chamber of the State Capitol in Atlanta on Jan. 12.
AP
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ATLANTA — Leaders in the Georgia House of Representatives on Wednesday revealed their proposal to increase state funding for transportation by $1 billion annually through a combination of changes to the state’s gas tax and a usage fee for owners of alternative fuel vehicles. The plan, announced by House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and House Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), would also add $100 million in bonds to the fiscal 2016 budget to be used to rehabilitate bridges and roads, though Roberts said it has yet to be decided how the bond revenue will be distributed around the state. In Georgia, motor fuel is taxed in two ways. First, there is a 4 percent sales tax levied by the state. Of the 4 percent, 3 percent goes to the Department of Transportation. The other 1 percent goes into the state’s general fund budget. The other tax is an excise tax levied at 7.5 cents per gallon regardless of the price of gas. The plan announced Wednesday would do away with the sales tax on motor fuel, raise the excise tax to 29.2 cents per gallon, and tie the tax rate to fuel efficiency standards and the consumer price index, which measures inflation. Roberts said the 29.2 cents per gallon figure “approximates the average sales tax collected on a gallon of gas over the last four years.” As a result, Roberts explained, consumers would not end up paying more at the pump, as the increase in the excise tax is equivalent to the decrease in the sales tax. The plan would essentially move the “fourth penny” that currently goes into the general fund into the DOT’s budget, Roberts said, and would generate about $175 million in new money for the DOT. Ralston stressed the importance of increasing transportation funding but emphasized the proposal would not force Georgians to pay more in taxes. “This is a quality of life issue, it is a public safety issue and it is an economic development and job creation issue,” Ralston said. “This plan will provide more than $1 billion annually in new transportation dollars. It does not result in an increase in state taxes on Georgians.” Debbie Dooley, state coordinator for the Georgia Tea Party Patriots, said her organization will be opposing the bill. She said Georgia House Republicans are trying to “deceive voters,” who she said will be paying more at the pump. “They’re hitting everyday Georgians the hardest while giving massive tax breaks to corporations like Delta and are spending tens of millions of dollars to help build a new parking deck for the Atlanta Falcons stadium,” she said. “They are not spending our tax dollars wisely now, and instead of going after all the corporate tax breaks and other areas, they’re raising new revenue.” For counties like Cobb that have voter-approved special purpose local option sales tax programs, the plan would allow for those sales taxes to continue to be collected on gasoline until the SPLOST programs expire. The sales tax in Cobb is 6 percent. Four percent goes to the state, 1 percent goes to fund county government capital improvement projects and another 1 percent goes to capital improvement projects in the Cobb and Marietta school districts. “The people voted for them, we’re going to allow them to continue,” Roberts said. Future SPLOST programs would not collect taxes on motor fuel if the bill is passed, he added. Additionally, the bill would allow local governments to levy their own excise tax on gasoline with the proceeds mandated for transportation projects. Roberts said counties and cities could each levy up to 3 cents in excise tax for a total of 6 cents in local gas taxes. For instance, Cobb County could levy a three cent tax and the city of Marietta could levy a three cent tax, putting the excise tax on motor fuel in the city limits at 35.2 cents per gallon. An increase in the excise tax would have to be approved by the voters, Roberts said. “Local governments will be able to collect up to 6 cents excise tax — 3 for counties, 3 for cities — for transportation once their local SPLOSTs expire,” he said. “They will vote on that, and if they vote to approve it, then that will be added for transportation purposes.” Clint Mueller, legislative director for the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, said if the bill is passed, local authorities would lose any revenue they were receiving through SPLOSTs or E-SPLOSTs levied on motor fuel, but they could regain those funds if they enact the extra excise taxes the bill allows for. “They can make that up by levying this 3 (cent) excise tax; however, the 3 (cent) excise tax obviously is dedicated only to transportation,” he said. Mueller said the ACCG would have to consult with its members before announcing whether the organization would support the bill. “County governments are a big component of the transportation network. In fact, 70 percent of the lane miles in the state of Georgia are maintained by your county governments — not the state, not anybody else. Because we’re such a big component of the network, this is a very important issue to us.” The ACCG has worked with lawmakers on the issue of transportation funding in the past, and Mueller said his organization would continue its efforts. “Everybody agrees on the problem, it’s just, how do we all work together to find a solution to the problem,” he said. The usage fee for alternative fuel vehicles would apply to those that run on electricity, propane or natural gas, but would not be levied on drivers of hybrid vehicles, Roberts said. The fee would be $200 per year and $300 per year for commercial vehicles and would raise about $7.5 million for the DOT annually. More details of the plan are expected today when it is filed as legislation. Additionally, Ralston said more details will come as the bill moves through the House. “I expect the bill to be thoroughly vetted as it goes through the legislative process,” Ralston said. “We welcome constructive discussion and debate, but the time to begin the process is now.” Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) proposed similar legislation in the House during the first week of the legislative session. His proposal would also eliminate the sales tax on motor fuel, but would only raise the excise tax to 22.5 cents per gallon. Setzler plans to offset the increase in the gas tax by lowering the state’s income tax rate. Setzler said he’s familiar with Ralston and Roberts’s proposal, but hasn’t studied it in enough detail to comment. “I’ve not had an opportunity to look over the specific language of the bill or the numbers, and I know there’s going to be a number of things adjusted in it, so I’m still in study mode,” Setzler said.
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MRC chairman opposes mayor’s idea for trolley service parking lot
by Hilary Butschek
January 29, 2015 04:00 AM | 466 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Steve Tumlin
Steve Tumlin
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Ron Francis
Ron Francis
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The chairman of the Marietta Redevelopment Corporation said he’s not in favor of putting a parking lot on the nine acres the MRC owns to service a potential city trolley. Mayor Steve Tumlin announced earlier this month he’d like to see a city trolley that would take residents and tourists on tours to the city’s museums. Another destination for the trolley could be the new SunTrust Park in 2017, Tumlin said. “I’d love to see where we have all that MRC property — or adjacent to it — build off-Square parking there and have the trolley get people to the Square or Kennestone. Then, 81 nights a year, have a Marietta tie-in to the Braves world and have the trolley go south to the stadium,” Tumlin said in an interview this month. Yet MRC Chairman Ron Francis, who is also chairman of First Landmark Bank, hasn’t warmed up to the idea of using the MRC’s property as a parking lot to service the trolley, he said at the MRC’s board meeting Wednesday. Instead, he’s eyeing a commercial development for the nine acres off West Dixie Avenue and Hedges Street, he said. “If it’s zoned commercial you’re going to be able to get more money per acre (from the buyer) than if it’s zoned residential,” Francis said. And that’s exactly what the MRC needs most — more money, Francis said. The MRC is more than $3 million in debt with the Bank of North Georgia. The MRC is a tax-exempt organization formed by the City Council in 2003. In 2006, it received $2.1 million from the city to be used as a land-buying fund. It used that money to secure a loan from Bank of North Georgia and began buying property across from the Hilton Marietta Conference Center. The plan was to flip the property to a developer, but that has yet to happen. Francis said although he wants commercial space, he is open to any development that can bring money back to the MRC. “Whatever can get us the most money to pay back the bank — but a parking lot isn’t going to do that,” Francis said. Tumlin’s idea for a trolley includes stops at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, the Aviation Wing of the Marietta Museum of History and the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennesaw. For trips to SunTrust Stadium, Tumlin said he’ll look at finding a space to put a parking lot where trolley riders could leave their cars. MRC buys property, eyeing another Francis said this month the MRC purchased a property at 63 West Dixie Avenue for $67,000, which holds a 900-square-foot building. The new property is contiguous to the land the MRC already owns. Francis said he hopes to sell the entire 9-acre tract the MRC owns on West Dixie Avenue and Hedges Street in one piece to one developer. “We’re filling it up and getting it contiguous so that we don’t have a problem,” Francis said. The MRC is also eyeing a piece of land contiguous with the land the MRC already owns, which is about three-tenths of an acre owned by the Marietta Board of Lights and Water, the city-owned utility. “Right now, as far as I know, it’s an empty lot. It’s just got a piece of concrete slab on it because I think at one time maybe 25, 30 years ago it was some kind of a sub-station,” Francis said. In the coming months, Francis plans on meeting with the BLW to ask if the board, which is chaired by Tumlin, will consider gifting the land to the MRC for free. “I’m not sure what (the BLW’s) use for (the land) is now,” Francis said. Terry Lee, who serves on both the MRC and BLW boards, said he thinks there is a chance the BLW will give the MRC the property. “They’re considering giving it away. We’re still discussing it,” Lee said. Teresa Sabree, MRC administrator, said the MRC has about $45,000 in its checking account. Francis said that amount “isn’t enough to buy any land.” Since its last meeting in November, the MRC used $9,800 to demolish the building on the property at 52 West Dixie Ave., Sabree said. The money was a portion of the $30,000 the MRC received from the city’s Community Development Block Grant money, which can be used to clear up “blight and slum,” Sabree said. The MRC now has about $20,000 left in CDBG funds to spend, Sabree said.
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Killed Marietta couple had ‘a lasting impact’: Pair supported Cherokee charitable organization
by Michelle Babcock
January 29, 2015 04:00 AM | 549 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Marietta couple police say were killed in rural Georgia while seeking to purchase a car from an online seller had ties to a Cherokee County organization. Bud, 69, and June Runion, 66, of Marietta were found dead in rural south Georgia on Monday after being reported missing by family last Thursday. Now their family is asking on Facebook that instead of flowers, donations be made to the House of Hope Foundation in Free Home in memory of the couple. Wendy Graham, director of the House of Hope, said Bud Runion had become a good friend through his volunteering at the organization. “I’m heartbroken,” Graham said Wednesday. “This family has been such a blessing to me over the past year.” Graham, who knew the Runion couple for a year, said their work at House of Hope has left a lasting impact. She said the couple’s daughter contacted her before asking publicly that donations be made. Graham was introduced to Bud Runion through a mutual friend, and she said the family immediately began helping the Free Home foundation, which aims to feed children in need in the area and provide other necessities. “I will never forget delivering the Thanksgiving meals with him to our families. He didn’t just drop off the food, he talked with the families, prayed with them and made sure they didn’t need additional help,” she said. Graham said Bud Runion was more than a big supporter and volunteer at the House of Hope, he was also a close friend. “He was such a fun loving man with a great big heart,” she said. “Not only did he help the House of Hope, he helped me personally.” Graham said the Marietta man made a habit of text messaging her every Wednesday to check up and see how she was doing. As Graham reflected on the loss this week, she said it would be strange not getting a message from him. “He always checked on me, sent me funny texts and emails. Always encouraging me and trying to make me laugh,” Graham said. “I’m so glad I got to be in his life, even if it was only for a short time. He taught me so much and I miss him terribly.” Graham said she will go forward with Bud’s spirit, making a point to get to know the local families in need as personally as he did. Suspect denied bond Bud and June Runion had placed an advertisement online on Craigslist seeking to purchase a 1966 Ford Mustang convertible like the one Bud had bought after returning from the Vietnam War as a young man, news partners at the Associated Press reported. The ad got a response from a potential seller in southern Georgia, and the couple set out last Thursday to meet the person who had responded to their online ad, according to Associated Press. The couple’s family reported them missing later that day, and their SUV was found Monday in McRae. The bodies of Bud and June Runion were located nearby; both had been shot in the head, Associated Press reports. On Tuesday, Ronnie Adrian “Jay” Towns, 28, of McRae, was arrested as a suspect in the killing of the Marietta couple. Towns was charged with malice murder and armed robbery and was denied bond, the Associated Press reported. According to family and friends, the Runion family was known for their volunteer and charity work not only in Cherokee County, but throughout the South. From Alabama to West Virginia, to Atlanta and metro areas, the couple had done countless hours of volunteer work, the Associated Press reported. When the couple went missing last week, an online Facebook page was created to provide updates on the search. The webpage, which garnered more than 175,000 followers in less than a week, is now encouraging donations to the House of Hope foundation. Donations can be made to the organization online, through the website at www.houseofhopefreehome.com by clicking on the “Donate” button at the top right of the home page.
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