MARIETTA — Some commissioners balked at a one-time merit-based payment for investigators working for District Attorney Joyette Holmes and Solicitor General Barry Morgan during a Monday morning work session.
But the three commissioners present found more agreement in opposition to asking a state agency to help fund new CobbLinc transfer centers.
In the former matter, Holmes and Morgan are requesting a one-time $1,475 payment for each of the 28 sworn investigators in their two departments — 22 in Holmes’ office and six in Morgan’s. Their ask comes following the commission’s May 28 approval of the merit-based payments for Cobb police and sheriff’s deputies in an effort to address claims of lagging public safety pay compared to other metro Atlanta governments.
Giving the same payments to the 28 investigators could cost the county $41,300 out of its general fund. But debate on the matter was raised by Commissioners Keli Gambrill and Lisa Cupid during the commission’s agenda prep meeting Monday morning, with Gambrill raising the point that 911 staff had not been among those approved for the payment in May.
“In regards to the 911, there was a proposal on the street to do that, but it wasn’t supported, to my understanding, by the majority of the board, and that’s why I withdrew it,” Chairman Mike Boyce answered.
Responded Gambrill: “But understand that if we do this for the district attorney, that one will be back. ... I think we’re opening the door here,” she said.
Cupid called the ask from the two county departments a “tough request.”
“The challenge of even moving forward in supporting that was the recognition that there are so many other people in this county tied to public safety. It was almost like we were asking for this Pandora’s Box to be opened,” Cupid said.
But Boyce declined to pull the payment measure from the agenda of the commission’s 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday, and said regarding additional payments to 911 staff, he would be “happy to do that” if a majority of the board supported it.
“You can’t parse public safety. That’s how we got into this situation to begin with — we started nickel-and-diming public safety,” Boyce said. “For the first time in years, we have the adequate funding to provide these incentives to them. Money’s not the issue this time — the issue is who is public safety, and we define that as certified people, and I thought 911 was one of them, and we didn’t have to come to the board, but we’re going to find support for these 22 officers in the solicitor’s office.”
But Boyce agreed with Cupid and Gambrill, opposting plans for a new CobbLinc transfer center for the south Cobb area and new transfer centers to replace the existing ones in Marietta and Cumberland.
County Transportation Director Erica Parish is proposing a resolution that would submit to the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority several projects related to the county’s CobbLinc bus service. Cobb is a member county of the authority, also known as the ATL, that was created under House Bill 930 signed last year by then-Gov. Nathan Deal.
The regional body is responsible for implementing transit projects across 13 metro counties and ensuring plans connect efficiently across jurisdictions, and has a July 31 deadline for governments to submit projects for its inaugural Regional Transit Plan.
The county’s proposed resolution would also seek funds for the expansion of its CobbLinc maintenance facility.
“I think this is a very unimpressive list to go to the ATL for all of the resources that they could bring to the table,” Cupid said.
Boyce echoed his concerns shared with the MDJ last week that the ATL’s call for proposed projects presents a “dilemma” for the county, which is still working on its transit study and its Comprehensive Transportation Plan
“It’s rushing us to a decision that we’re not ready for yet,” Boyce said Monday, adding that another commissioner had also expressed concern before announcing that the resolution would not be considered Tuesday.
Two commissioners were not present at Monday morning’s meeting. Commissioner JoAnn Birrell was not in attendance but was expected to make a Monday afternoon work session focused on the county’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget. Commissioner Bob Ott was out of state taking part in a conference.
Ott previously told the MDJ that the proposed new transfer centers and maintenance facility precede Boyce’s tenure on the commission and have “been on the books” and previously discussed by county officials.
“The (Comprehensive Transportation Plan is) not finished, but the ATL is moving forward,” Ott said at the time, “and the county risks the possibility of missing an opportunity to eventually get some grant money out to something in place that the county has previously identified as some significant improvements.”