Economic development, workforce development, and transportation were the top issues the Douglasville City Council listed as priorities to Douglas County's state delegation on Thursday morning.
The meeting, held at the Douglasville Conference Center, was one of several the legislators representing parts of the county held ahead of the start of Georgia General Assembly on Jan. 8, 2018 in Atlanta.
Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, head of the Douglas County state delegation, led the meeting attended by five other legislators inlcuding Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton; Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, Rep. Kimberly Alexander, D-Douglasville; Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville; and Rep. William Boddie, D-Atlanta.
Under economic cevelopment, the so-called "Brunch Bill" and tax allocation districts were discussed.
Ward 5 Councilman Richard Segal presented most of the facts for the "Brunch Bill." The Brunch Bill allows cities the option to allow restaurants to serve alcohol starting at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays. The current state law gives cities the option to permit alcohol sales at restaurants beginning at 12:30 p.m.
“I think if you work with the faith-based community, it may happen, but that’s going to be a tough one,” Boddie said.
Douglasville City Manager Marcia Hampton talked about reasons why the city is requesting that tax allocation districts (TADs) be allowed to be voted on by citizens next year. The districts allow cities to sell bonds to finance infrastructure and other redevelopment costs within a specific area. The big project that TADs in Douglasville would focus on is the downtown area and implementing the Downtown Master Plan, which was recently presented at a meeting. Some of the highlights of the master plan include turning the old jail site into a green space with an amphitheater and turning the current city hall into a shopping center. Hampton pointed out that TADs are also used in cities like Smyrna, Acworth, Marietta, Duluth and East Point.
Bruce asked why TADs weren’t passed the last time citizens voted on it.
“It wasn’t really explained very well how it worked and a lot of people who turned out to vote that year didn’t understand it and were against it,” Segal said.
Hampton also said that last time the city didn’t give residents a clear vision of what a TAD could look like, and that now the citizens have a vision with the Downtown Master Plan.
Under the workforce development, the city expressed its concerns about recruitment within public safety and fair wages for local law enforcement officers. A majority of the legislators agreed that while they agree that officers should get paid more, actually increasing pay this upcoming session may be complicated.
“It’s going to be difficult since our governor is leaving,” James said. “I’m just putting this on the table, this is his baby. He wants to make sure that when he leaves, these police officers are being paid comparably to the salaries of other people around the state.”
Under transportation, the city encouraged the redesign of the I-20/I-285 interchange to improve the safety and traffic flow between Douglas County and Atlanta. City officials also told the state delegation that the Bright Star Road bridge over I-20 as well as the Highway 5 Bridge over I-20 are big issues.
State legislators congratulated Councilman-elect Terry Miller on his return to leadership in the city shortly after the meeting.