Goreham defends use of SPLOST funds to build two new public safety buildings
by Haisten Willis
June 19, 2014 04:00 AM | 4582 views | 14 14 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sam Heaton, second from left, Cobb County public safety director, chats with Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham on Wednesday at the Cobb County Department of Public Safety training facilities. At right is Donnel Campbell, training chief at the site. Staff/Jeff Stanton
Sam Heaton, second from left, Cobb County public safety director, chats with Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham on Wednesday at the Cobb County Department of Public Safety training facilities. At right is Donnel Campbell, training chief at the site. Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — The day after Commissioner Bob Ott slammed plans to spend $108 million on new public safety buildings, another commissioner said she’s on board with the idea.

Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, opposes spending the funds, which would come from a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax renewal vote in November, on two new facilities for Cobb first responders.

The first is a $55 million new headquarters and evidence storage room for the Cobb Police Department. The second is $52.9 million for a new training facility for police and firefighters.

Ott opposes both, saying officers are more concerned about pay and vehicles.

Commissioner Helen Goreham, on the other hand, believes the new buildings would be a good investment.

“We need to have the highest level of training possible,” Goreham said. “We are outgrowing the facility and technologically we need an update.”

Goreham said the training facility was built in 1992, when the Cobb police and fire departments had about 800 employees. Today, there are almost 1,500, according to Cobb Public Safety Director Sam Heaton.

Police officers have requested higher pay in recent months, but Goreham said SPLOST money legally cannot be used for salaries or benefits. She did say one SPLOST line item involves a take-home car policy for some officers, which she supports.

The new training facility would have an indoor firing range. Goreham said neighbors around the firing range often complain about the noise.

Cobb district commissioners say they’re opposed to throwing in $100 million toward a bus rapid transit line as part of the SPLOST vote.

Commissioners Lisa Cupid, JoAnn Birrell, Ott and Goreham all said they’re leaning against the project’s inclusion in the SPLOST list. They also fear voters won’t approve the sales tax if the bus rapid transit line, which would run from Kennesaw State University to Midtown Atlanta, is part of it.

“I’m leaning against it,” said Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb. “I still haven’t seen the impact studies and environmental studies on that. I think there’s a need for other improvements and infrastructure we need to look at first before the BRT. I’m very concerned about the SPLOST being affected, it may not pass if it’s on there because of what happened with the T-SPLOST.”

T-SPLOST was a 1 percent sales tax that would have been levied in the 10-county metro Atlanta area for transportation projects. It failed in 2012, with 65 percent of voters opposing the tax.

Commission Chairman Tim Lee supports the project, but appears to have no support from his board.

Commissioners were given a master list of potential SPLOST projects totaling more than $1 billion from county departments this week. They now have to decide which projects they want to see included in a potential six-year SPLOST, which is expected to bring in $750 million.

The term “bus rapid transit” isn’t found in the line item from the Cobb Department of Transportation. It’s referred to as a “high capacity multi-modal transit along Cobb Parkway” instead.

The description details how the system will allow for “improved access/mobility for existing businesses and future business growth.”

Goreham said she can’t support the rapid transit dollars “at this point” and would rather see the project financed some other way.

“The details of financing haven’t been shared and if there’s any chance that it might hurt the passage of the SPLOST, I’m not willing to take that chance,” said Goreham, who represents west Cobb. “I believe in the value of a SPLOST. Historically, it works. It’s cost-effective and it keeps our property taxes low.”

Ott picked up on the new name for the BRT, saying it appears to be a “rebranding” so people don’t realize it’s the BRT.

Birrell said one of her biggest concerns is having a police precinct in her northeast Cobb district.

“There is not a police precinct in District 3,” Birrell said. “I’d like to see something in the Shallowford-Sandy Plains area because right now that area all, all the way to Highway 92, is serviced by precinct four on Lower Roswell Road.”

Birrell said she’s been pushing for a police precinct in her district since she was first elected in 2010.

Though there is no precise location listed, the SPLOST list includes the addition of an $8 million new police precinct which would be located either in Birrell’s or Goreham’s district.

The item says the new precinct “will improve officer availability at shift change” and “will improve patrolling in the area.”

The $8 million price tag is for both a new police precinct and a new fire station. A stand-alone police station would cost $5 million, according to SPLOST documents.

Other big projects on the list include $30.4 million in technology upgrades, $20 million in renovations to Jim Miller Park near Marietta, $20 million in improvements to Lost Mountain Park in west Cobb, $20 million for improvements to Pitner Road Park in west Cobb, $10 million for a new tennis complex at Perry Parham Park near Marietta and $24.7 million to replace the county’s five oldest fire stations.

Transportation projects include $35 million for new sidewalks, $20 million to match federal and state funding for transportation projects, $10 million for road improvements to be specified at a later date, $101 million for road resurfacing, $30 million for a Windy Hill Road/Terrell Mill Road Connector and $21 million for improvements to Mars Hill Road and Lost Mountain Road.

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Wake up
June 22, 2014
We always steer clear of the Atlanta Stadium, and Atlanta Sports teams due to crime, thugs, & traffic. Safety is zero there.

And why do we want it here? Why would Cobb EVER EVER want to be like Fulton County?????

I moved here to get AWAY from Atlanta !!!

I never thought Cobb would SELL OUT for "Games"

Quality of Life is NOT about money.
another W.Cobb owner
June 22, 2014
Didn't Byrne get that stinking Bedminster trash/feces cooker over here to start with? The noise and smell would knock you down for years.
30 year taxpayer
June 22, 2014
It's time for that horrible unbearable awful outdoor firing range to be permanently shut down. Go to Dobbins or some proper military location. The surrounding tax-paying longtime neighborhoods have been subjected to enough 12 hour @ day explosions and gunfire. GO AWAY ! WE HAVE BEEN DONE WRONG too long. Maybe we could possibly sometime in the future sleep, watch TV or grill out in peace.

The only terrorists/bad guys we have been dealing with is the County. You could build a building from the wasted ammo alone.
Cobb Cynic
June 20, 2014
The Commissioners have stuck it to us on the Braves stadium boondoggle without even a kiss. I say we return the favor and vote this pork barrel laced wish list down. Stick it to them for a change.....
Wait a Sec
June 19, 2014
Perry Parham Park is on Fairgrounds Street, and that is in the city limits of Marietta so let Marietta pay from their share for any improvements.

That is if anyone with common sense supports another SPLOST.

The BOC, cities and BOC use the SPLOST just like Congress does on their pork barrel projects. Lets sneak in this and sneak in that and hope the taxpayers don't see it.

And anyone who thinks Bill Byrne is good for Cobb needs to do some research and then if they still think the same they need to turn in their voter registration card and go back to sticking their head in the sand.
the facts are
June 19, 2014
Not only is there $20M in 'unknown' projects, but county the millions of dollars to be spent on artificial turf -- could this be the same turf that only Chairman Lee's company can provide/install? Just asking...
June 19, 2014
Commissioner Ott obviously has something personal against the folks over at Public Safety if he has come out so strongly against supporting them in the upcoming SPLOST. Thank you Commissioner Goreham for being one of the Adults in the Room while others kick sand around in the sandbox.
Be Careful
June 19, 2014
This is why I ALWAYS vote NO on SPLOSTS.

There's always funny business with the money, and they start to treat SPLOST money like it's a normal part of the budget.

And again I'll say, there is already a bus service between KSU and the MARTA Arts Center Station. The pick up point is right in the middle of the KSU sports complex on George Busbee.

Why do we want to spend millions or billions more studying and creating a bus line when one already exists.

CRT also services the KSU campus.

Why does NOBODY mention this when the bus service subject rears it's ugly head???
Goreham correct
June 19, 2014
Ms. Goreham is correct. SPLOST can not be utilized for raises and salaries. It is the same with the school system and their staff. SPLOST can only be used for technology, buildings, etc. Both the police and firemen and teachers are way overdue for raises. It is sad that people think athletes should get paid millions, but the people who keep us safe and teach our kids are overpaid to the public. The salaries should be reversed! Athletes are not worth millions people!
Look closely
June 19, 2014
I am very concerned not about the BRT or the high capacity multi-modal transit. The public knows what this project is and can vote accordingly. I am concerned with the language under transportation that says 20 million to match federal and state funding for transportation projects. What are those? No specification but the public is just suppose to blindly vote . Here is the biggest concern, Mr Lee ,I have to have my bus, will go underground. He will visibly fold under the so called pressure, he will give us a Obama type lecture/lashing and then he will embed more projects with no names into the SPLOST . Add them up and we will have just voted for his bus/transit system. He then can boast that he had to do it this way because the public does not know what is good for them. Same premise as his statement - I had to keep the braves deal a secret because if the public knew we would have never gotten the deal!
the facts are
June 19, 2014
Commissioner Goreham says, “I believe in the value of a SPLOST. Historically, it works. It’s cost-effective and it keeps our property taxes low.”

Commissioner Goreham also says that changing land use in the Lake Allatoona corridor to include more commercial, i.e, hotel/motel to service Lake Point Sports in BARTOW CO., is necessary to keep Cobb Co. property taxes low. So why does she always vote to approve higher taxes?

The lake corridor has been the sacrificial lamb in recent years so that the Dallas Hwy corridor was protected from more commercial development. When do we, the residents of the Lake Allatoona corridor, get protected from the District 1 commissioner's plans? Hopefully before this environmentally sensitive area ceases to exist.

June 19, 2014
Helen is just another RINO loves to waste money and they use the SPLOST as a ploy to get your taxes higher and higher while keeping the builders in business and getting plenty of campaign money. You had better vote for Bill Byrne.
Elizabeth Banks
June 19, 2014
Bill Byrne would rather be living in Polk County. He is a career politician with a history of making TERRIBLE choices for the county that have costed us millions. I would do yourself a favor and do some research on Byrne. You are not going to like what you find...
Anybody but Byrne
June 19, 2014
RINO - Republican who is Intelligent and Not and Obstructionist.

Helen is right on point with her support of the SPLOST.

Bill Byrne wants to "take the county back." to what the Dark Ages.

Anybody but Byrne!
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