(Public) safety first: Commissioner Birrell hopes to use SPLOST money for new police station
by Haisten Willis
July 03, 2014 04:00 AM | 4480 views | 4 4 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell discusses the possibility of a new police station off Sandy Plains Road with Cobb County Captain Jerry Quan and Lt. Brian Kitchens at the Cobb County Fire Station 14. If the 2016 SPLOST is passed by voters in November, the new station could be one of her priority projects for her district.<br>Staff/Abigail N. Quigley
Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell discusses the possibility of a new police station off Sandy Plains Road with Cobb County Captain Jerry Quan and Lt. Brian Kitchens at the Cobb County Fire Station 14. If the 2016 SPLOST is passed by voters in November, the new station could be one of her priority projects for her district.
Staff/Abigail N. Quigley
MARIETTA — Cobb District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell says public safety is the top priority in her special purpose local option sales tax wish list.

“Right now, we can’t use SPLOST money for salaries,” said Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb. “What we have on the list for public safety are things like take-home vehicles for police officers.”

The Cobb Board of Commissioners will decide July 22 whether to put before voters a 1 percent SPLOST, expected to collect $750 million over six years.

Birrell said she hasn’t finalized her roughly $125 million wish list yet, but she talked about some of the big projects she hopes to see included.

New police precinct

There isn’t a police precinct in District 3, and Birrell hopes this will change with the coming SPLOST vote.

“My consideration is to put a police precinct at the Mountain View complex, where it’s surrounded by county facilities,” Birrell said.

The area includes Mountain View Elementary School, which is set to be rebuilt at a new location. There is already a senior center, library, aquatics center, arts center and community building in the area.

“My preference is to put a police precinct where Mountain View Elementary is,” she said.

Birrell estimates the new precinct would cost $4.5 to $5 million. It would become Cobb’s sixth police precinct.

Birrell said police response time isn’t necessarily lacking now, but she thinks it will be more efficient to have a police precinct in the area, rather than having officers come from Lower Roswell Road, where the nearest precinct is located.

Fire station 12, built in 1968 near the intersection of Brackett Road and Canton Road, needs to be renovated or rebuilt, according to Birrell.

“It’s very small and old. It needs upgrades with bays,” she said.

Birrell said she’ll fight hard for both projects.

“Canton Road is being redeveloped and a lot of businesses are on Canton Road, a lot of homes and subdivisions. Fire Station 12 is definitely one of the older fire stations that is in desperate need of expanding or rebuilding.”

Fire Station 12 has 4,475 square feet, according to Birrell. She estimates a rebuilt version would be 5,900 feet and come at a cost of $3.9 million.

Birrell also said adding take-home vehicles for some officers would help boost morale for Cobb police.

“Not everybody would get a take-home vehicle. That would be very expensive,” Birrell said. “But we do have a program we’re looking at to put that in place, and so, take-home vehicles would be the top of my list for police.”

Bridge project with Marietta

One transportation project Birrell talked about is a bridge replacement at Old 41 Highway and Kennesaw Avenue. It would be a joint project with the city of Marietta.

“It’s an older bridge that’s weight restricted,” Birrell said. “The city has made some repairs, but we definitely need to look at that as a main priority for the department of transportation. Our portion would be around $4 million. We’d need $8 million total to make that happen.”

Birrell is also eyeing $2.2 million in improvements to the intersection of Post Oak Tritt and Hembree roads.

She said the improvements would ease traffic flow and also make the area safer.

Parks and recreation

Birrell’s top park project is the 26 acres of undeveloped rolling pasture and woodlands known as Mabry Park near the corner of Sandy Plains and Wesley Chapel roads.

The county purchased the site from Ed and Sue Mabry Harris in 2008 for $4.3 million, after voters approved a $40 million bond in 2006 to purchase green space. Mabry Park was on the initial 2011 SPLOST list but did not make the final cut.

“It has been a passion of mine to see Mabry Park developed since before I became a commissioner,” Birrell said. “There’s no access to it, so we’d have to build a road. There is just no funding (outside of SPLOST) for the road or the park. It’s a $5.2 million development, according to the master plan approved a couple of years ago.”

Peter Hortman, vice preside of Friends of Mabry Park, is one District 3 resident who wants to see the park built.

“It would be the only passive park in northeast Cobb County,” Hortman said.

Hortman lives in the nearby Windsor Oaks subdivision. He works in business development for URS Corporation and has a 10-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter he said would enjoy visiting the park.

A firm known as Heath & Lineback Engineers donated designs for the park, Hortman said, but the sales tax extension is needed to make the park a reality.

“We need the SPLOST funds to get ground broken,” he said.

Birrell said her district lacks green space. Residents living near Shallowford, Wesley Chapel and Sandy Plains roads have to drive to East Cobb Park.

“Any time of day, (East Cobb Park) is packed,” Birrell said. “This would give the residents in the northeast part of my district an opportunity for families to enjoy a passive park.”

Gritters Library

Gritters Library, which sits next to Shaw Park off Canton Road, is in need of replacement, according to Birrell. She said the total cost of the rebuild would be $8.6 million and would sit on the same property.

The library was built in 1973 and spans 7,500 square feet.

“It’s overcrowded. There’s a small community room there but it’s just outdated,” Birrell said. “It’s old and in need of repairs. We desperately need to make it bigger.”

Birrell estimates a replacement library would be 20,000 square feet.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 03, 2014
What planet are these people on? The only thing holding this thing together is Officers willing to come in and work extra to cover unfilled shifts. They are soon going to grow tired of all this extra work just in time for the Braves to come.
Dave Z
July 03, 2014
YES to Mabry Park.

(Plus, this is how you'll get the votes to pass the SPLOST.)

July 03, 2014
There wont be any police to staff it....CCPD are losing officers at an alarming rate.
Just Wait
July 03, 2014
If they build it, they will staff it. They will come from the other precincts and just make them even more understaffed.
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