The area of south Fulton took action in 2018, continuing both to encourage growth and work on managing it. The year also saw its namesake city put its ducks in a row, bad guys take the fall and booze questions appear on ballots. Here are some of the top stories of 2018:
LAW AND ORDER
Juries and judges put perpetrators of violent south Fulton crimes behind bars in cases prosecuted by Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Life sentences were handed down for murderers like a College Park man who recorded his own crime on video, a gang member striking near Old National Highway, a Union City vigilante who chose the wrong victim by mistake, an East Point strip club DJ in a murder for hire plot, two defendants who caused a southwest Atlanta man to leap to his death and a MARTA train gunman.
The newly formed city of South Fulton police department gained former College Park Police Chief Keith Meadows as its top cop. Within his first month on the job, he announced the arrest of a suspect in a triple shooting that left two teens dead. Adrian Chappell, 18, was accused of killing Tyree Johnson, 19, and Grant Payton, 16, and critically wounding a juvenile. The motive was robbery, Meadows said at a press conference. Evidence included surveillance video of the suspect Meadows said was believed to be Chappell, firing a semi-automatic weapon. The chief said casework was still ongoing around the clock, that there may be other suspects involved and that police were exploring possible gang involvement. Meadows said the case was an example of his goal to identify the individuals causing the bulk of the violent crime in the community. Mayor William “Bill” Edwards said public safety is the city’s No. 1 priority.
DO YOU DDI?
Traffic relief made its start on Camp Creek Parkway at I-285 when the Aerotropolis Atlanta Community Improvement Districts hosted a groundbreaking for a $12.3 million diverging diamond interchange, fast-tracked for a late 2019 completion date. Georgia Department of Transportation District 13 board member Dana Lemon said the speed was unheard-of for GDOT. According to Lemon, the DDI will use the existing bridge structure and widen it by seven feet. It will have six lanes and a barrier-separated pedestrian walkway. East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham asked drivers to be careful navigating the area and urged them to use alternate routes to explore area around south metro’s largest shopping center. Available roads running parallel to the construction include Centre Parkway, North Commerce Drive, Redwine Road, Princeton Lakes Parkway and Washington Road. Lemon and other officials hailed the intersection improvement as an economic development advance given its ability to improve traffic flow in the congested area leading to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. More importantly, safety will improve as a result of the south metro area’s first DDI, one of seven in Georgia and about 100 in the U.S., Lemon said, as studies have shown that DDIs can reduce injury and fatal crashes by 62 percent.
BRICKS AND MORTAR
Shovels bit into dirt in February near the Georgia International Convention Center as College Park started the $45 million Gateway Center @ College Park, an Atlanta Hawks G-league arena set to be complete in the fall of 2019. The project is financed from $9 million in city reserves and a $36 million, private-placement revenue bond issue with SunTrust Bank backed by city car rental taxes. College Park Mayor Jack P. Longino said the arena represents sound investments and business development. City Councilman Ambrose Clay said predecessors, including previous city councils, contributed to its start. It is slated to create 600 jobs during construction and may help the 15-year-old convention center gain more corporate business, Clay said, as it will have a nearby entertainment venue. The arena will hold 3,500 seats for sports and up to 5,000 for concerts and other events on a 100,000-square-foot footprint. The Hawks, the city-owned property’s main tenant, will bring the Gatorade-affiliated development team Erie BayHawks in from Pennsylvania. The G-league team will be 10 minutes from the Hawks’ base in Atlanta.
In East Point, construction started on a $3.25 million, four-bay, 12,000-square-foot state-of-the-art, multipurpose fire station set to open in winter 2019. East Point-based Brown Design Group planned out the details of the replacement for the aging 1960 two-bay Fire Station No. 4 demolished on the same footprint. It will be named for public safety pioneer Rosemary Roberts Cloud, the nation’s first African-American female fire chief, who retired in 2015. She is also the first female fire chief to have a fire station and training facility named after her. Cloud worked her way up from an Atlanta Fire Rescue Department firefighter to assistant chief of operations at Hartsfield-Jackson before applying to East Point, her hometown. At the March groundbreaking ceremony, she acknowledged the contributions of those who came before her, noting the first African-American firefighters were not hired in Atlanta until 1963.
Voters in the 2018 midterm elections paved the way for the city of South Fulton to annex the Fulton Industrial District, a lucrative commercial area long made unincorporated by law. The city will likely compete with Atlanta for control. Cities across south Fulton approved the Brunch Bill, allowing mimosas and Bloody Marys to be poured at restaurants on Sundays an hour and a half earlier than before.
The city of South Fulton checked off the boxes necessary to be a legal new municipality by establishing vital departments like fire, police and public works, meeting the Nov. 30 deadline under its charter. Under public works, residents and businesses began to be able to select their own trash pick-up and recycling services providers from a list of eight contracted vendors. City Manager Odie Donald II said it was the completion of an array of services provided to constituents, saying that road and highway maintenance, sanitation pick-up and recycling are essential to sustain a city and help its businesses.
The Fulton County School System found itself again looking for a new leader after Superintendent Jeff Rose, Ed.D., resigned as of the end of this calendar year, with his last day having been Dec. 20. The district had three superintendents in as many years with Robert Avossa resigning in 2015, Kenneth Zeff resigning afterward as interim superintendent and Rose starting in June 2016. Rose cited personal reasons for the request not to extend his contract, but would not elaborate. When hired, he signed a three-year contract with a $295,000 annual salary. Rose will remain with the district through the end of the school year as a consultant, and will be paid $248,832 during that period. Former Superintendent Cindy Loe, Ph.D., who served from 2008 to 2011 before retiring, stepped in to be the interim during what will be a nationwide search for Rose’s replacement. She is not a candidate for that position.
Neighbor News staff writer Bill Baldowski contributed to this report.