By Mark Woolsey
District 2 Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson’s second-quarter public town hall Thursday night was wide-ranging, touching on topics ranging from public safety to COVID to zoning to affordable housing. Recovery from the pandemic and private groups partnering with government emerged as themes.
“This is the greatest example of a public-private partnership that you see anywhere in the country,” said Mike Plant, President and CEO of the Braves Development Company, as he detailed efforts to, as he put it, “crawl back” from pandemic-related impacts.
He said that he expects The Battery Atlanta to play host to nine million people this year “safely and securely” with the assistance of Cobb public safety agencies. He also noted Cobb County government’s help in bringing new companies to the Battery, notably Papa John’s corporate headquarters. Earlier this year, Cobb commissioners voted to approve a 13-million-dollar bond issuance to aid in the move.
Cobb Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sharon Mason stuck to the partnership theme, outlining that in tandem with county officials, some $50 million was issued in pandemic aid grants to small businesses of 100 or fewer employees. Some 3,700 grants were passed out, with about one thousand of them to businesses in Richardson’s East and South Cobb district. Commissioners approved that program in May.
She added that companies looking to relocate to Cobb kept popping up during the pandemic, with some 70 firms looking at potential moves. She said about one-quarter of those are in those in Richardson’s District 2.
Mason said 19 project announcements have been made in recent months.
Richardson handed out a series of awards later in the session and gave one to Mason, praising the chamber for helping with programming and “doing so much during the pandemic to assist the county and work with us.”
On the public safety front, Cobb County Deputy Police Chief Jeff Adcock said that mail theft has emerged as a major concern, particularly in the East Cobb and the Vinings areas, with the perpetrators using the seized mail to create credit cards and other tools in an attempt to raid residents’ bank accounts.
Adcock also addressed the recent apprehension of a 47-year-old suspect in the “crawling burglar” case. The deputy chief said he’s been charged with breaking or removing windows before crawling through businesses to avoid detection in a dozen cases in Cobb, but is suspected of a total of 60 or 70.
In response to a question about East Cobb and Vinings cityhood proposals Richardson said she had no opinion. But she did recount that she didn’t favor the prior East Cobb effort which collapsed in 2019, citing what she called discrepancies in a study of the issue, data inaccuracies and other problems.
She said she would withhold judgement until a new study of the proposal is released but added that “frankly, I’m not expecting anything too different this time.”
She also addressed the county budget set to be finalized by commissioners July 27, noting that it contains no millage increase.