A vocal citizenry took the podium at Tuesday’s Smyrna City Council meeting. Many were speakers from the Forest Hills neighborhood who had concerns about the Concord Road median and streetscaping project, but one of citizen input’s regular contributors stole the show.
Smyrna Heights resident Mary Kirkendoll took the podium during citizen input to applaud the Forest Hills residents for speaking out against the project, and asked why her neighbors weren’t speaking out as well.
After citizen input was complete, Ward 4 Council Representative Charles “Corkey” Welch was speaking to some of the concerns raised about the project when Kirkendoll again approached the podium.
“May I ask a question—make one statement please, Mr. Welch,” she said.
Ward 1 Council Representative and Mayor Pro Tem Melleny Pritchett (Mayor Max Bacon was absent, and Pritchett was officiating the meeting): “You may not ask a question. You’re out of order. Sit down.”
Kirkendoll: “I’m going to be respectful, but I’m going to ask about the plans that Mr. Welch saw on the website.”
Pritchett: “You’re out of order. You’re not going to ask him. He’s talking. You’re interrupting him.”
Kirkendoll: “When he’s finished may I ask the question?”
Pritchett: “You can ask him after the meeting.”
Kirkendoll: “But I want everybody to be—I want there to be transparency.”
At this point a uniformed police officer approached Kirkendoll and said, “Ms. Kirkendoll, please sit down,” at which point she left Council chambers.
Other speakers addressed Council about the project. While nearly 20 people spoke during citizen input, more than a dozen raised concerns about the Concord Road median project. Most were residents of Forest Hills subdivision who said that medians along Concord Road would cut off access to their neighborhood.
Jean Martin of Lee Street called the project a “wasteful use of tax dollars.”
“My concern is about the public safety vehicles,” she said. “How are the police going to get in there? How are the fire trucks going to get in there? Ambulance, how are they going to get in there? Plus, depending on where they’re coming from, it’s going to cut in to response time.”
Stan Whitmire, another Lee Street resident, also raised issue with taxes.
“It’s very frustrating to be a taxpayer and it feels like to all of us that are concerned about that it was done behind closed doors and we were not given a chance to voice our opinions," he said.
The Concord Road median and streetscaping project is being funded with money from both the 2005 and 2011 SPLOSTs. , Council members voted 7-0 to award a $6.8 million contract to C.W. Matthews to complete the project.
Some Forest Hills residents said they liked the medians, but asked that the city consider allowing median cuts at the entrance to their neighborhood.
“I’m fine if y’all want to add the brick median,” she said. “It looks nice—that’s great, but I would love if you’d have an opening to at least Lee or Dunn. Keep the turn lanes the same as they are and a median around the current turn lane. I think you’re really going to hurt the neighborhood.”
Residents aren’t the only ones unhappy with the project. Robin Reece owns Robin Brooke’s Salon on Concord Road.
“This is really going to hurt us,” she said. “There would be no access. Somebody would have to come all the way down south past our business and turn around. I don’t even know how that’s going to work.”
Several speakers requested a meeting with the Council members who represent Forest Hills and Smyrna’s engineers.
“My only request is that, Mr. Welch, since you’re in charge of our ward, that we can get a meeting put together for all the stakeholders that reside in the Forest Hills community and the businesses around us to actually have a public forum to discuss if this is something that’s in the best interest of the citizens," Travis Shaw said.
Many speakers asserted that they’d never heard about the project until a neighbor circulated a letter about it the week before the meeting. After citizen input Welch countered that the plans were on the city’s website and that the majority of Smyrnans had voted for the SPLOST project list in previous years.
"Why are we doing this? It’s because the people in 2005 and 2011 voted on the Concord Road project as part of the SPLOST program. That’s the simple why of it. It’s something that we’re required to do in the SPLOST program. We cannot change that money. We cannot change the way the money is spent. It has to be spent the way that the people have designated the funds,” he said.
Read more about the Concord Road SPLOST Project on Smyrna-Vinings Patch: