By a 5-0 vote, commissioners approved a policy that will allow advertising inside and outside of Cobb Community transit buses, as well as an agreement with Signal Outdoor Advertising of Orlando that allows the company to sell the ads in exchange for splitting revenue with the county.
Cobb will get to keep 55 percent of revenue, as part of the contract that starts Sept. 1 and runs through Aug. 30, 2015, while Signal keeps 45 percent. The county is guaranteed a minimum of $60,000 in the contract’s first year, $70,000 in year two and $80,000 in the final year.
Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham said the county first started looking at allowing advertising on buses about five or six years ago. But in 2011, the county finally agreed to go out for bids on an advertising program after a recommendation from the Citizen Oversight Committee, which was appointed by the Board of Commissioners to find efficiencies and cut costs in county government.
“Today is a reflection of Cobb County’s new way of doing business and entering contracts that are revenue generating,” Goreham said.
The agreement requires county approval for advertisements, and prohibits certain items like contraceptives and feminine hygiene products. It also forbids advertisements covering more than 25 percent of a bus’s windows.
Commissioners also unanimously approved an agreement with the Cobb School District and a private company, American Traffic Solutions, which will put teeth into a 2011 state law that allows school buses to use stop-arm cameras to record drivers who pass stopped school buses. The law didn’t give school districts authority to enforce the law, so county approval was needed.
Cobb Schools has installed cameras on 102 of its 1,120 buses, spending $20,400. The district reported 871 violations to Cobb Police last year, but without enforcement authority, police could only send warning letters to violators. Now, violators will face $300 citations, which will be mailed to them.
“I hope it sends a message that drivers need to follow the rules of the road at all times,” Goreham said.
Tempe, Ariz.-based ATS will keep 75 percent of the revenue from tickets the first year of the program and lesser percentages thereafter. While Cobb Police will have the final say on violations, ATS will process camera footage and mail citations to violators.
Commissioners decided to defer action on a code amendment that would have changed the way pawnshops buy goods from the public. The change would require pawnshops to take a digital fingerprint and take photos of every person who sells to them and every item that is sold.
Cobb Police Chief John Houser said the changes would allow officers to do a better job investigating property crimes. While pawnshops are currently required to check identification and take fingerprints on paper, the new law would create a database that make it easier to find information.
“Many other jurisdictions use these types of systems,” Houser said. “I don’t think there’s a concern with citizens in those jurisdictions. I think the only people that would have a problem with us doing this are those individuals who are pawning stolen items … People who are legitimately pawning items, I don’t think they would see this as an invasion of privacy.”
But attorney John Moore, who is representing the Cash America pawnshop on Veterans Memorial Highway in Mableton, said the proposed regulations are overkill. Moore said that in 2011, the store he represents had 17,325 pawn transactions, and only 11 resulted in police property holds in which police suspected the goods may have been stolen.
He said the current laws that require sellers to put their fingerprint on a pawn ticket are adequate.
“The fact that a police officer has to go to the pawn shop to pick up a ticket doesn’t seem like that much of an inquisition,” said Moore, senior partner in the Marietta firm of Moore, Ingram, Johnson & Steele.
Houser said that a private vendor would supply pawnshops with equipment necessary to process the fingerprints and photos, with pawnshops paying either an annual fee or an estimated per transaction cost of 15 cents.
Commissioners decided to hold off on a vote on the ordinance until they could send out a request for proposals that will help find two companies to handle the transactions. Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said that while he supports the police efforts to fight theft, it is important to nail down the cost of the process before setting the law in stone.
“It would make sense to hear the RFP process first, and then change the code,” Ott said. “It is a business, and we need to make sure that any time we change the code affecting business that we are extra careful.”
Commissioners also approved an agreement that will pave the way for the city of Marietta to annex the 22-home Bellmeade Farms subdivision, which is currently in unincorporated Cobb. Some residents of the development wanted to be part of the city because Bellmeade is closer to Marietta’s Dunleith Elementary School.
Goreham said she was OK with the annexation because the entire neighborhood, which is already nearly surrounded by the city, would be annexed. She was initially concerned because only six homes wanted to be annexed, leaving the remainder of the neighborhood needing county services. Goreham said her concerns were alleviated after a breakfast meeting with Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and Councilman Grif Chalfant.
“My concern was the provision of public safety services if it was not a total annexation,” Goreham said. “It was an island to begin with, so we’re eliminating that island, which is great progress.”
In other action, commissioners:
- Unanimously approved an agreement with Financial Marketing Concepts Inc. The agreement calls for the county to make the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., company’s discount prescription drug cards available to the public, in exchange for the county receiving a royalty of $1.25 each time a prescription is sold.
- Approved, in a 3-2 vote, a 10-day suspension of the beer and wine package license for Best Shell Inc., which does business as Food Mart #526 Shell at 465 Barrett Parkway. In April, police said Huseyin Erikli sold a 12-pack of Natural Light beer to an underage person while working at the store. Ott and Goreham opposed the decision, saying the Board of Commissioners should have stuck with the recommendation of the License Review Board, which suggested a seven-day suspension for the store, which was a first-time violator of underage sales laws.