After pitching the issue for more than a month, Mayor Kasim Reed's administration still hasn't persuaded the Atlanta City Council to sign off on selling the Atlanta Detention Center, that eye-catching jail just south of downtown.
For more than three hours on Monday night, councilmembers debated the measure a key component of the mayor's plan to help fill an estimated $48 million budget gap and grilled his staff about the proposal.
Motions were made, amendments were proposed and details were discussed. But council was no closer to being sold on the deal then they were before.
Reed wants the city to enter into a lease/purchase agreement with Fulton County, which is under a court mandate to ease overcrowding at its own northwest Atlanta facility. According to the mayor, the deal could save the city $9 million in the first year alone. But Council's been split on the issue. Some agree that the jail costs taxpayers $30 million a year and think the deal makes sense. Others think the facility could possibly generate revenue for Atlanta and want details about how the deal could impact the jail's 300 employees.
The mayor made a personal appearance to speak to Councilmembers about two issues: Giving a nod to begin negotiations with Fulton County about the 1,150-bed facility and signing off on a management team for the long-delayed bond issuance that will provide more funding for the new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He reminded council that failure to sell the jail would result in "other reductions" he'd mentioned before. That's City Hall-speak for "firing employees."
Reed told council he'd like talks with Fulton County to begin but that he'd respect its decision on the jail. The big-bucks bond issuance, however, was vitally important to keep the terminal's construction on schedule. (Outgoing airport General Manager Ben DeCosta was also in attendance, pulling councilmembers to the side of chambers.) With that, he essentially gave Council an option.
Ultimately, Council voted 9-5 to refer the jail deal back to the Finance Committee for more discussion. The move surprised even Councilman Michael Julian Bond. One of the deal's most vocal critics, Bond last night told CL he'd prepared himself for his colleagues to sign off on the jail deal. Before everyone called it a night, President Ceasar Mitchell told his colleagues to be prepared to decide once and for all in two weeks.
(Photo by Joeff Davis)
"Stadium Love" - Metric
Ben Palmer is a funny dude. I'm saving up to buy his book someday.
Some call it poverty - others call it a simpler life.
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