I. Welcome & Introductions
Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM. A quorum was not present.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the July and August meetings were not approved because of the absence of a quorum.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be admitted to membership in BCN.
Arthur Ferdinand, Fulton County Tax Commissioner
Arthur Ferdinand’s tenure as Fulton County Tax Commissioner has generated a lot of public attention and press coverage since he is the highest paid public official in the state. That status was one of several topics that drew a lot of attention during the meeting. Ferdinand maintained that he was simply following state law. He pointed out that the tax commissioners for other counties merely collect taxes for their county, which is fine. He said he has taken the initiative of also helping to service other governments within the county and in the process has generated a lot of additional revenue for Fulton County. He indicated if the state law were changed to discontinue the extra payments he is paid for servicing the other government entities, he would likely retire. Regarding the question of whether the tax commissioner position should be elected or appointed, Ferdinand noted that he was initially appointed to the position of tax commissioner. Then the state law was changed to make the position an elected one. Ferdinand thinks that having tax commissioners selected by appointment rather than election would probably result in more qualified commissioners. Ferdinand has been criticized for actively initiating the sale of tax liens to private investors. He defends the practice, saying some homeowners even seek the sale of liens involving their property, and says that he has achieved a collections rate of 99% of taxes due. This, he thinks, should be contrasted by the 87% collections rate of his predecessor. He is very proud of his achievements. One topic was debated by Ferdinand with the audience during and after the meeting: whether tax lien sale notification should be sent by regular or registered mail. Ferdinand says he is just following the state law by using first class mail. When the law required that he send notices by registered mail, he did so. When the state law requirement to use registered mail was eliminated, he went back to regular mail to save money. The counter argument was that property owners are often completely unaware that tax liens against them even exist, much less that they are being sold. Ferdinand maintained that if this happened, it was rare. However, an informal poll of the attendees at this BCN meeting showed that more than 10% of the audience had personally experienced surprise tax lien sales. While no official vote was taken, it seemed that most (but not all) attendees felt that tax lien sales warnings should be delivered to the property owner by registered mail and the state law should be changed to require such notification.
Candidates for House Seat 54
- Democrat: Robert W. “Bob” Gibeling
- Independent: Bill Bozarth
- Republican: Beth Beskin
Three candidates are running for the State House District 54 Seat. The comments by candidates were polite and informative.
V. Community Concerns/New Business
VI. Committee and Liaison Updates
- No report.
Tom Tidwell said that everyone he had heard from was very impressed with Dr. Meria Carstarphen who spoke to BCN last month.
- Did not meet. No report.
- 26 neighborhoods have renewed/joined. Kingswood rejoined in the past month.
- Gordon Certain said that the City had bought four acres of land in North Buckhead adjacent to Sarah Smith Elementary’s Primary Campus. The parkland will extend Blue Heron Nature Preserve and will enable students to do field visits to parkland without having to use vehicles of public streets. Ultimately, intent is to also use the land as part of their BLUEWAY path which will connect from the PATH400 trail along GA400 at Old Ivy Road though the Post Chastain apartment grounds on Roswell Road to Chastain Park on Lake Forrest Drive. Debra Wathen said their Paces neighborhood has no parks but that the city is planning to open historic Fort Peachtree on the Chattahoochee River as a park. She said that the site is part of the waterworks which were closed to the public 13 years ago.
- No report.
Transportation, Development and Infrastructure
- Ron Grunwald said GDOT is doing studied on the Peachtree Road “road diet” proposal. He said results may be available in January. Ron hopes to have a sneak peek at a BCN meeting before any open houses are held. Andrea Bennett discussed an application at Christ the King involving a proposal to house six priests in a nearby house. The NPU-B felt that the proposal was consistent with being single family home. She also said the NPU was considering another application for the redevelopment of the Lindbergh site involved in earlier Wall-mart plan. Mary Norwood discussed the audit of Watershed Management after their loss of “inventory” including backhoes. She said that Felicia Moore got the City Council to pass legislation last year which required that the Council be “kept in the loop”. She said “you can’t get it better until you know what’s wrong.” Mary encouraged Buckhead residents to attend a meeting on the proposed $250 million infrastructure bond. She said we should go to www.atlantaga.gov/infrastructure. Residents really look at that map. The project list currently shows very few Buckhead projects and that public meetings held for Buckhead residents have been very poorly attended. She said of the 300 people in total who have attended the meetings for the entire city included strong representation for bike people and pedestrian issues but not enough for our issue which is traffic management. Felicia Moore agreed with Mary, saying she was glad to be back to BCN after an absence. She said the council will be asking for an audit on Payroll issues. She said the last audit was in 2006 and that there have been issues with “payouts”, etc. Felicia added, regarding the 2015 Transportation Infrastructure Bond issue that the city needed to do an affordability analysis to figure out what size bond issue it can afford to avoid over-extending ourselves. Tom asked what was the financial situation of the city – Felicia answered “on paper” the city is in good health. She said the city now has a substantial reserve. Gordon Certain discussed planned Bond projects related to Wieuca/Roswell intersections which will be impacted by the Sandy Springs Gateway project – Sandy Springs got all the transportation impact fee money and Atlanta got more than half the traffic the project will generate.
VII. New Business/Announcements
VIII. Next Meeting October 9, 2014
IX. Adjourn – The meeting adjourned at about 8:45 PM.
Note: The opinions expressed by the speakers and individual neighborhood representatives in these minutes do not necessarily represent those of BCN or its member neighborhoods.