City separates from the Marietta Redevelopment Corp in 7-0 vote
by Hilary Butschek
June 12, 2014 04:00 AM | 2557 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Mayor<br>Steve Tumlin
Marietta Mayor
Steve Tumlin
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MARIETTA — The Marietta City Council voted Wednesday to separate itself from the Marietta Redevelopment Corp. after sinking $2.1 million into the group to redevelop parts of the city.

In a 7-0 vote, the council decided the MRC would be better off settling the $3.9 million in debt it owes to Bank of North Georgia on its own.

The group used the city’s $2.1 million to obtain a bank loan, and proceeded to buy up properties across from the Hilton Marietta Conference Center. But when the recession struck, the MRC was unable to follow through with its plan of flipping those properties for a profit.

MRC board member Ray Buday said the MRC’s future is unknown now the two are separate.

“(The mayor and City Council) will presumably maintain a close interest in the MRC, but I think they think (our goals) can be achieved without the mayor and council having a direct role,” Buday said.

While considering the separation at the May 29 committee meeting, Councilman Stuart Fleming echoed Buday’s statement, saying it was time to think about how the MRC should be used now.

“I think it would be worthwhile to consider how to use that knowledge and how they could contribute to the city in another way,” Fleming said. “I’d like to throw that out there as something we consider in the days ahead.”

Mayor Steve Tumlin said the city requested the MRC be more independent because it would help the group.

“They have a good board of directors, and we’re basically empowering them so that they might have a chance to survive,” Tumlin said.

The MRC was formed in 2003 under then-Mayor Bill Dunaway. Dunaway believes the group wasn’t managed correctly.

“Good people served on the MRC, but unfortunately, as far I’m concerned, the City Council had too tight of control of it,” Dunaway said.

He said the MRC had good intentions, and although it wasn’t a complete failure, it suffered because of the council’s overwhelming control and the economic downturn.

“They had a lot of good ideas, but the economy tanked, and those ideas went away,” Dunaway said.

The former mayor said he is in favor of the split and hopes the MRC will succeed on its own.

Marietta resident Larry Wills spoke at Wednesday’s meeting.

Wills said he believes the MRC was a complete failure, and the city is trying to hide it.

“(The City Council is) trying to sweep it under the rug. They’re trying to cover up their mistake,” Wills said.

Wills said the group wasted millions of city dollars on paying city employees and attorneys and buying expensive land. He said he thinks the city will never get that money back.

“It was a terrible failure. It costs the citizens of Marietta millions of dollars,” Wills said. “They just need to do away with (the MRC) and start all over.”

The MRC is still working to reduce its debt, and it took a step toward that goal last month.

The city bought the property owned by the MRC at 409 North Marietta Parkway for $91,000 and plans on using it to add to the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center.

Goldstein and mayor reach consensus

In other business, the mayor and council ended a months-long fight with Councilman Philip Goldstein over Goldstein’s Theatre in the Square building, which extends onto the sidewalk by 18 inches.

The agreement was approved 4-2 by the council, with Fleming and Councilman Grif Chalfant opposed. For that vote, Goldstein recused himself and sat in the audience.

The agreement, which Goldstein signed at the meeting Wednesday, allows him to keep the portion of the building holding a marquee that extends onto the sidewalk if he accepts responsibility should an accident on that property occur.

Goldstein previously objected to signing an agreement of that type, but he has worked with the mayor over the past few weeks to create an agreement to settle the matter before the June 12 deadline.

Were the deadline to have been reached, Tumlin said the city could have forced Goldstein to remove the marquee by court order.

Marietta CID safe

A property was removed from the newly approved Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District by a 7-0 vote from the council.

The property had to be removed in order to keep the CID from dissolving.

The CID needs a majority of its property owners to agree to tax members of the CID at a higher rate in order to exist.

When the tax assessor found that the city had miscounted the votes it needed to create the CID, the City Council agreed to remove one property that was opposed to the creation of the CID to maintain the majority count.

Council also approved a drug-free zone in a 7-0 vote.

The zone, which covers an area along Franklin Road, is designated as an area of commercial property where those caught committing drug-related offenses could receive higher penalties if convicted.

Next year’s budget passes

Council also passed the city’s budget for fiscal 2015, which includes no tax or power rate increases, with a 7-0 vote.

The balanced budget, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2015, totals $348 million. This year’s budget is 20 percent, or $58 million more than the existing budget.

It allows for a 3 percent city employee raise. City employees received a 2 percent raise for the past two years, said Lori Duncan, the city’s budget manager.

Every year, the City Council transfers millions from the city-owned utility — the Marietta Board of Lights and Water — to its general fund. This year, $11 million will be transferred, which is $500,000 less than last year’s transfer.

It was Tumlin who suggested lowering the amount the city transfers to the fund.

“Through the years, we’ve raised (the amount we transfer) by a million-and-a-half, and I think if we lower it over a period of time, then we’ll get back to where we were,” Chalfant said.

The general fund, which includes the revenues and expenses of such city services as Marietta Police and Marietta Fire, totals $51 million, an increase of $1.7 million, or 3.5 percent, from last year. Bill Bruton, the city manager, said the increase is from rising tourism revenue.

“I am pleased with the fact that we have been able to make it through the recession, and now it looks like the economy is coming back at a slow pace,” Bruton said, “but the revenue to the city is starting to increase.”

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