Liz Marino/Douglas County Sentinel Rob Elliott, vice president of public affairs with Switch, attended the Tuesday meeting of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners as they approved changing the name of a portion of Douglas Hill Road to Switch Way. Pictured, from left, is County Administrator Mark Teal, District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell III, County DOT Director Miguel Valentin, District 3 Commissioner Mike Mulcare, Elliott, Douglas County Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones, District 4 Commissioner Ann Jones Guider and District 2 Commissioner Kelly Robinson.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to hire The Collaborative Firm, LLC of East Point for branding, public outreach and education services for the county’s Multi-Modal Transportation division Tuesday, but not without conflict over the county’s proposed bus service that was brought into the discussion.

The two opposing votes came from District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell III and District 4 Commissioner Ann Jones Guider.

The vote came as a result of Friday’s transportation committee meeting, which after interviewing the three top candidates, recommended The Collaborative Firm to the full board, based “on a good presentation on how they would conduct the county’s marketing and outreach program.”

The branding and outreach program has a cap not to exceed $50,000, which was allocated by he BOC from the county’s Capital Transportation Fund.

According to Gary Watson, director of Multi-Modal Transportation, the BOC put about $346,000 from the Capital Transportation Fund into Rideshare’s 2018 budget to cover the county’s match for Rideshare Budget Improvement Requests (BIRs).

“The branding and marketing was one of our 2018 BIRs,” said Watson. “This is not a grant project. The $50,000 is all local money.”

Mitchell said he thinks “branding for the vanpool and senior voucher program is needed to be well stated to the public.”

However, he shared his reservations before Tuesday’s vote.

“I am highly supportive of branding,” he said, “but a little off-keel on the (bus) transportation project. I can’t get on board until we are honest and transparent.”

The Collaborative Firm has done business with the Douglas County government previously, most recently hired during the jail construction project.

During Monday’s work session, Watson explained that a large segment of the county’s population does not know about the senior/disabled voucher program, the Rideshare program and the transportation center.

District 3 Commissioner Mike Mulcare reiterated Watson's comments during Tuesday during the BOC’s voting meeting.

“One of the realizations through several events with 1,400 responders was that there is a broad lack of knowledge of services in Douglas County,” Mulcare said. “This lack of knowledge may be part of the reason that transportation services are underused.”

He added, “This program is to explain what transportation services are available — to educate the public — whether there is a bus system or not.”

“We need to do a better job of telling the public of what we do in the programs we have now and what we will have in the future,” Watson said. “We need to get the word out on current services that are being under-utilized.”

He said, “This issue stands alone whether we have bus services or not.”

The BOC had previously approved a request for qualifications (RFQ) for a company to come in and help devise a branding for the Multi-Modal Transportation program, to help redefine the aging Rideshare label and to educate the community on the programs the center currently offers. The plan is to utilize "Connect Douglas" under which all of the multi-modal transportation services will fall.

In other business, the BOC voted unanimously Tuesday to give authorization to change the name of a portion of Douglas Hill Road, from east of Thornton Road to Six Flags Drive, to Switch Way.

According to Miguel Valentin, the county’s director of transportation, the name change would facilitate people heading to the facility to find their way. This would not impact any other companies located in the area, as there are only three parcels and none of them front on the property.

This road name change was made at the request of Switch, a global technology solutions corporation, which will create 65 jobs, and along with its clients, invest $2.5 billion in a Switch PRIME data center in Douglas County.

The 1-million-square-foot Douglas County campus, Supersnap Atlanta, will become the fourth Switch PRIME campus located in the U.S, The company said it would add a minimum of 105 new jobs with wages of at least $25 per hour with an investment of approximately $702.5 million in Douglas County, which will be undertaken in three phases of construction.

Plans are for the company to first build a 300,000 square foot facility in Phase I, followed by a second 300,000 square foot facility and a third 400,000-square-foot facility.

The board also accepted a $11,000 grant from the Petco Foundation for the Douglas County Animal Shelter to provide spay and neuter services to adoptable pets at the facility.

Animal Services Director Frances McMillan told the BOC that the grant would be used to spay or neuter 100 animals to be adopted and 100 feral cats. She said the grant was attainable because the new animal shelter meets the Petco Foundation’s standards.

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