From Commissioner Jeff Rader, June 2010.
Here are some topics of interest from recent DeKalb County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meetings:
South Fork Peachtree Creek Trail
Highly publicized events have revealed flaws in DeKalb County's 911 emergency response system. Based on those events, the system appears to be hampered by improper procedures, inadequate staffing and technical deficiencies.
The county CEO's administration is working to eliminate the flaws. Among its steps is the creation of a new position, E911 Director, with dedicated purpose of managing the daily operations of the 911 system.
The new position will be manned by a civilian to retain independence from the county's public safety departments -- police, fire, and emergency management. The position will be fully funded by the emergency telephone fund based on a surcharge that appears on the telephone bill of all county residents.
The emergency telephone fund covers 100 percent of all operating expenditures for the 911 system so all of its performance flaws can not be blamed on the budget. In fact, the emergency telephone fund finished the last fiscal year with a surplus. Whether that surplus could have been used for additional training, personnel or equipment upgrade is a matter for hindsight.
As a result, state law compels the county to lower the 911 surcharge to eliminate future surpluses. Effective July 1, 2010, the monthly surcharge will drop from $1.50 per month to $1.35.
The CEO's administration recognizes the importance of the 911 system in protecting life and property in DeKalb. A transition report prepared for incoming CEO Burrell Ellis in December 2008 identified the 911 system as an issue to be addressed.
"The Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) System in the County's 911 Emergency Center is severely inadequate and is not performing a majority of the basic functions specified by the County in the procurement of the system and needed by the citizens of DeKalb County." (page 70, Transition Report, Dec. 19, 2008)
The Board of Commissioners will monitor the administration's actions to rectify identified flaws in the 911 system.
Going green has been a mantra, backed by actions, for DeKalb County's sanitation department. The department, which successfully launched a residential recycling program, is now working to generate renewable fuel.
The plan is to collect landfill gas (i.e. methane) from the county's landfill and convert it into natural gas to be used to power retrofitted sanitation collection vehicles. To fund this project, the Board of Commissioners voted to accept a $7.8 million grant from the federal Department of Energy as part of the America's Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package. That federal grant is part of the county project's estimated $21.6 million budget during the next four years.
The project is technically feasible in part because the county, unlike most counties, owns its landfill, located at Seminole Road (30294). The Seminole landfill is estimated to have a 70-year capacity based on current projections.
In the natural decomposition of trash, methane gas is expelled. Most landfills burn off the methane gas to avoid potential explosions and to prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas, which deteriorates the earth's protective ozone layer.
Instead, DeKalb plans to use the converted gas to supply two transportation fueling stations available for use by the general public and county. The natural gas will power vehicles specifically designed to run on such fuel. Hence, the county will begin to buy replacement sanitation trucks capable of running on natural gas. So the project's concept is that the garbage trucks that pick up garbage will be fueled by garbage.
The sanitation department is to be commended for its ongoing efforts to develop sustainable systems. The department is among the most successful enterprises in DeKalb County government, one that has performed well in delivering services to county residents.
Recently, the department was honored for excellence in environmental and economic practices. It received the "Gold Transfer Station Excellence Award" from the Slid Waste Association of North America.
The advent of the Internet has created new communication channels between government and its citizens. No longer are public announcements restricted to mainstream media -- television, radio and newspapers.
The newest channel in DeKalb County is a "Code Red" system designed to facilitate communication related to emergencies. Such emergency announcements include evacuation notices (flood, tornado), bio-terrorism alerts, boil water notices and missing child reports.
The Code Red system distributes announcements to residents in targeted geographical areas via e-mail or telephones. The county has the capability to initiate reverse 911 phone calls using its database of landline telephone numbers. But Code Red also allows the county to reach out to those residents who rely on e-mail or cell phone as a primary means of communication, if those residents provide the relevant information to the county.
The Board of Commissioners approved a month-to-month extension of the county's existing contract with a third-party vendor to operate the Code Red system.
Residents are encouraged to sign up for Code Red announcements, either by going to the home page of the county web site and clicking on the Code Red icon near the upper left corner, or following the link at the bottom of this update.
The Board of Commissioners gave formal approval to two maintenance projects at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport (30341). Both projects are contingent upon successful application for grant money from the federal and state governments.
The first project is for selected replacement of concrete slabs on two taxiways. Approximately 25 of 480 slabs have been targeted for replacement. The existing slabs are roughly 40 years old.
The second project is to remove rubber buildup and repaint the runway along its center spine. This is an annual maintenance task.
The slab replacement is estimated to cost $800,000 of which 95 percent would be paid by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, 2.5 percent by Georgia Department of Transportation and 2.5 percent by the county. The county's portion, about $20,000, would be paid entirely from airport funds, not the county general operating fund.
The airport is a financially self-sustaining enterprise, which collects revenue from user fees and fuel surcharges. It operates at no cost to county taxpayers.
The two projects are part of the airport's Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) that have been vetted by local interest groups. The CIP is important for the airport to maintain its operation viability.
South Fork Peachtree Creek Trail
One of the county's goals for its green space has been to create connectivity among the parks. The connectivity fosters a stronger sense of community and provides a transit option to those seeking to leave behind their cars.
District Two is about to take another step towards that goal by connecting Mason Mill Park (30033) with Medlock Park (30033). A new pedestrian pathway will be installed as part of Phase Two for the South Fork Peachtree Creek Trail. The pathway, a 10-foot-wide concrete trail, will include a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks that run through Mason Mill Park.
The county is seeking to expand the connectivity further by connecting Mason Mill Park with Spring Creek Road (30033) and Emory University (30322).