Like Lee, Goreham voted “yes” in the 3-2 July 27 Board of Commissioners decision that raised Cobb’s millage rate by 15.7 percent, or about $105 on a $200,000 home. But, during her presentation at the North Cobb Senior Center, she showed a PowerPoint presentation displaying numbers that showed Cobb was among the lowest among large metro Atlanta goverments — Cobb, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Fulton counties, as well as the city of Atlanta — in property and sales tax, as well as budget and number of employees.
“You keep hearing that people are taxed out of their minds in Cobb County,” she told the audience of around 50 people. “I beg to differ. … We’re doing it with less employees, with less money, with a smaller operating budget.”
But not all those in attendance were pleased with Goreham’s support of the millage increase, as well as the 2011 SPLOST, which passed with Cobb voters by 79 votes on March 15, 2011.
“She goes along with the crowd,” Raymond Lunsford of Acworth said. “We don’t need that in a commissioner.”
Lunsford said he came to the meeting because he was concerned that Goreham might run for commission chairman.
“So far, I disagree with her votes,” Lunsford said. “She’s voted consistently against my principles.”
Others questioned why the county closed the county’s only senior day care center as well as the Windy Hill Senior Center to deal with budget cuts, while part of the 2011 SPLOST was set aside for senior centers.
But Cobb Senior Services director Pam Breeden said the SPLOST money was set aside for specific projects and could not be used to keep the senior centers running.
“It was the toughest decision staff has made in a lot of years,” she said. “There were a lot of tears shed.”
Police pay was another hot topic of the evening.
Cobb Police Chief John Houser was called upon to discuss the recent report by the November-December Superior Court grand jury, which recommended better pay and more benefits for police, out of concerns that Cobb is losing officers to other departments.
While the department has always lost officers, Houser said the biggest problem the department is seeing now is that officers are leaving for smaller city departments, something that didn’t used to happen with the 600-person force.
“Over they years, people have always wanted to come work with the big boys,” Houser said. “It’s not dire, but, if it continues, it could be a problem.”
County Manager David Hankerson said he plans to meet with Houser, who spoke to the grand jury, about the department’s concerns next week. Among the issues to be considered is “take-home” cars, which is a perk other departments can offer.
But Hankerson said coming up with the money to provide every officer with a car can be difficult.
“To go from 100-something cars to 600, you have to have a plan,” Hankerson said.
After the meeting, Goreham said a long-range plan to improve police compensation would have to be developed.
“I don’t think this is something that can be addressed overnight,” she said. “Obviously we’re constrained by our finances, but I think if we look at a long-range plan that addresses, perhaps, the automobile situation, that would be a plus. You’ve got to start somewhere.”
Another issue that drew interest at the meeting was roundabouts. Though the county only has two of the circular intersections in operation, some want to see more. But they would like to see the county do more to help drivers learn how to navigate through them.
As a result of the concern, Mike Wright, District 1 engineer for the Cobb Department of Transportation, said the county would put out information on how to navigate the roundabouts. The county has plans to build at least two more roundabouts.
Several candidates for office attended the meeting, including Mike Boyce and Larry Savage, who have both announced they will run against Lee for chairman. Also in attendance were Cobb Superior Court Judge Reuben Green, Marietta municipal associate Judge Nathan Wade, who is running for Superior Court judge, and Bill Clements, a candidate for the Cobb EMC board.
This was the first town hall hosted by one of Cobb’s four district commissioners in 2012. County spokesman Robert Quigley said the next town hall scheduled is northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s Feb. 16 meeting at the Mountain View Community Center, 3400 Sandy Plains Road.
Goreham was elected to her third term on the Board of Commissioners in November 2010. She is the first woman to be elected to three consecutive terms on the board.
Goreham, trained as a physical therapist, has an undergraduate degree from Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y., and a master’s in health care administration from National University in San Diego.
Jon Whitmer of Kennesaw said he has been “generally pleased” with the job Goreham has done.
“I agree with most of what I’ve heard,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything negative at all (from her).”