Something To Say About Schools and Safety

Just about everyone at Smyrna's City Hall spoke their mind at Monday's city council meeting.

Schools and public safety were prominent topics for council members, candidates and citizens alike at Monday night’s Smyrna city council meeting.

The council approved a measure to pay the remaining balance owed on its purchase of Smyrna Commons apartments with surplus funds from the City’s unrestrictive reserve fund. After the city finalizes the sale of the property to the Cobb County School District, it will still owe a remaining balance of $3.35 million.

This money will be paid from the City’s unrestrictive reserve fund, which currently comprises 35.35 percent of the City’s budget. Smyrna’s policy requires that the surplus be no fewer than 25 percent. After the balance is paid, the City surplus will be at 26.17 percent.

The measure was approved 6-1 with Wade Lnenicka, council member Ward 6, casting the only dissenting vote.

The CCSD plans to construct a new elementary school adjacent to and on the site of Smyrna Commons and it is scheduled to open in Fall 2013. Ron Newcomb, council member Ward 2, called the new elementary school a “godsend” explaining that it will help to attract families to Smyrna for the long-term.

“The quality of life is dependent upon the value that families moving into our neighborhoods place on the schools,” he said. “That is affected by the achievement scores. That is affected by the transiency rates in the neighborhoods feeding the schools. So strategically, it is worth every penny that we spend, in my humble opinion. Every penny that we spend, every time we can make this kind of arrangement. And especially getting a new elementary school; a new elementary school that will be the start for reinvigorating elementary schools throughout the city of Smyrna.”

Al Graves, a regular speaker during citizen input, applauded the City for using unrestricted reserve funds to pay the remaining balance owed on the Smyrna Commons purchase, but again questioned the council on the ultimate cost to Smyrna taxpayers and expressed general displeasure over the decision to purchase the aging and crime-filled apartments to begin with.

“I do not think it was a wise decision,” he said. “Y’all turned out smelling like a rose, but that was not the original intention. When you bought it, you bought a pig and a pole because you thought the police department was incompetent and couldn’t handle the problem.”

The mayor and council members don’t generally speak during citizen input, but Lnenicka broke convention to object to Graves’s remarks about the , calling it offensive to him as a Smyrna representative and citizen. Several of the city council candidates at the meeting made gestures of approval of Lnenicka's remarks including Jason Saliba, Ward 5 city council candidate.

Saliba, who took the podium after Graves during citizen input, explained that as an attorney for the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, he has the unique opportunity of working with all the county’s police departments and that Smyrna’s police department “is as good or better as any of them.”

Smyrna mayoral candidate Donna Short Woodham also applauded the efforts of Smyrna’s public safety officers saying they should be rewarded for their efforts.

“I think that we need to unfreeze the wages,” she said during citizen input. “We’ve got $10 million in reserves. You’re giving the money away. Your priorities are all wrong. Buying apartments when your employees haven’t received any raise in five years.” (It was pointed out by a council member that the City has instituted a pay raise freeze for the last three years)

Ziad Salameh, Ward 7 city council candidate, took the podium to highlight the Nickajack Elementary School Foundation’s kickball tournament and fundraiser that was held Sunday, Oct. 2. He explained that about 500 people showed up to participate in the fundraiser at Rhyne Park with the Vinings Estates team winning the tournament.

Two other Ward 7 council candidates brought up the fundraiser during citizen input. Vick Yankouski noted that four fire trucks were parked at the event, one of which was draped with campaign signs for his opponent, Ron Fennel.

Based partly on some misinformation, Yankouski mistakenly believed the City had rented a fire truck for his opponent to use and he questioned the council about it. Fennel later clarified that the fire truck in question is a vintage New York fire truck from the 1970s. The truck was not from the City of Smyrna, rather is owned by a friend, who allowed Fennel to use it as part of his campaign.

“Just to clear that up, the City fire department is never going to be asked to compromise what they do for a living in a non-partisan and a non-political way," Fennel said.

During his address to the mayor and council, Smyrna mayoral candidate Alex Backry expressed confusion over the city’s bond rating. He said he placed a call to Moody's in New York and that the city’s bond rating was AA2, not AA+. Newcomb helped clarify Backry’s confusion.

“There is confusion on the rating, Mr. Backry, as you said and unfortunately the confusion is on your part,” he said. “There are two different rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. You called the wrong one about the wrong rating. One is AA2. One is AA+.”

Backry also reminded everyone of the televised Smyrna mayoral public open forum to be held on Thursday, Oct. 20 hosted by the Marietta Cobb League of Women Voters.

One of the meeting’s few lighter notes came toward the end of citizen input when John Miller announced he was seeking the Ward 1 city council seat. Miller explained that Friday he had interestingly received a letter addressed to Melleny Pritchett, Ward 1 council member and his lone opponent.

“I don’t know what the odds of this happening, but I got a piece of mail Friday that had my address on it, but Ms. Pritchett’s name on it,” he said. “So I just wanted to take it the last leg of the way.”

Miller handed the mail to Pritchett as laughter momentarily filled City Hall on a night when not exactly everyone was happy.

Smyrna-Vinings Patch will have more coverage from the city council meeting on Tuesday and in the coming days ahead.

Mike S. October 04, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Read this very carefully. This has been repeated over and over. For the third time Moody's (212-553-1653) was called and asked what the City of Smyrna's rating was. The answer is AA2. If you have a rating of AA2 in Moody's that is equivalent to AA in S&P. NO PLUS SIGN. I'll repeat that. AA2 is equivalent to AA. NO PLUS SIGN. Newcomb corrected Backry wrong. Backry was right.
Mike S. October 04, 2011 at 08:38 PM
And another thing. THE SDDA AND CITY OF SMYRNA ARE TWO DIFFERENT ENTITIES. Two. Not one and the same. Two. Different. So whatever the SDDA's rating is it isn't the city's rating. The SDDA has it's own rating. You can't take it and apply it to the city.
George Lee October 04, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Very Smart Mike S. Lets Vote the laziest and most uneducated way we can..That's as bad as voting the Republican or Democratic Ticket! You can vote however you like it's your choice. I do hope that the youth that might be voting for the first time, don't read your post and take the Lazy way out..I hope people have more education than that, and they research for the best Candidates, that they feel is best suited and able to handle the job. Research and lets not influence laziness. Make a Good decision..
Mike S. October 04, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Michelle October 04, 2011 at 11:07 PM
As a parent who has a child in one of our Smyrna schools, this topic is critical to me. Although I have mixed feelings about the potential of my child's school closing, I am excited about what the new elementary school will provide if we are redistricted for this school. I will state that I hope the school board or redistricting committee will fulfill the true nature of this new school and that is to eliminate the overcrowding in many of the other schools in our area. I would like to see redistricting lines drawn in a fair manner for all concerned neighborhoods. In addition, I believe another area that must be considered even if it is difficult to discuss is the high transient population that negatively impacts our schools. There must be a balance of ownership verses rental neighborhoods that feed into these schools as well as a stronger community support of parents, businesses and volunteers who positively impact our schools. We already have a few schools who in spite of some obstacles have made huge improvements to their AYP reports as well as the success and reputation because of community involvement. Furthermore, I like seeing the existing council members and potential future council members place an importance on bettering our schools so that families will stay and educate their children in our city. I just hope the school board will be willing to work with our city officials and members of our community to achieve this goal.
Rio October 04, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Very good points, Michelle. One key item you mentioned is that ultimately it is up to the School Board. I too hope that the school board will be willing to work with our city officials and members of our community. But ultimately it is up to the Cobb County School Board. Not our Mayor and City Council as some would like to believe.
Rio October 04, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Ok Mike S. you can vote out all incumbents. I do hope the rest will do some research and make an educated choice rather than taking an easy way out, that may cost of all dearly in the long run.
Mike S. October 05, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Make a Good decision. Vote out all of the incumbents.
Michelle October 05, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Thanks Rio. It is amazing how much having a child impacts what becomes important to you verses not. In addition, I am becoming more and more aware of how quickly a persons mis-information or negative attitude can impact a situation. We almost chose not to send our child to the school she is in because of people's reactions and the test scores. Although we are less than two months into the school year, we could not be happier w/the progress and development our child has accomplished. So, with that being said, people really need to be careful as to what they say and to who, because it could damage situations that are perfectly fine. Also, having a green building or all the other features that go along with a new building is great, but the core of that school is the administration, children and families that support it....those are the factors that will create the success of a school. For me, the ability to walk, having a LEED school or anything else is not my main focus...it's the quality of the education my child will get that will carry her through the rest of her life. My final soapbox statement....we can keep running from the problem and it will never change or we can turn around and face it with the goal to change it. I am glad to see Smyrna make it a priority and directly or indirectly make difficult changes within our city that will help our schools tremendously as well as reach out to our school board to make these things happen.
George Lee October 05, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Like I said make good, Educated decisions..Can't vote them all out now can we, Some are unopposed...A little Research dug that up.. :) Happy Voting :)
Public Safety Supporter October 05, 2011 at 12:57 AM
As a very strong Public Safety Supporter of our Local Hero's, I feel as thought I need to clear up some comments on this thread. Ironically enough, this week happens to be Public Safety Appreciation week. In regards to the comment about the "4 fire trucks in Rhyne Park on Sunday," there were 2 Smyrna Fire Ladder Trucks there. Each of those pieces of equipment typically ONLY responds to heavily involved structure fires. The Ladder Trucks are typically only used when the structure is unsafe for Firefighters to enter the structure, which forces them to use the Ladder Trucks to "surround and drown" the structure. These units are usually the last resort piece of apparatus used. This almost in all cases is when the structure is obviously already a total loss. The third Smyrna Fire vehicle was the Battalion Chief. This vehicle ONLY responds to major incidents; i.e.: structure fires, auto accidents with entrapment, etc. Finally, the vehicle that caused the most concern by a Ward 7 Candidate was a 1974 American LaFrance Antique Fire Truck. I personally can confirm this vehicle is owned by a PRIVATE CITIZEN of Smyrna, NOT THE CITY OF SMYRNA. So there is no validity to the statement "It violates election laws and it is a safety concern." Did the concerned people not take time and pay attention to the decals on the door of this Antique Fire Truck that was "covered with signs for Ron Fennel?" Apparently not, as they clearly read "Fire Department - City of New York."
Public Safety Supporter October 05, 2011 at 12:57 AM
One last thing to think about; let’s say one of your family members collapsed during the Rhyne Park event. The Medical/Rescue assistance would have already been there. A step further, lets say they saved your husband/wife's life, BECAUSE they were there. You would be "all raves" about the Smyrna Fire Department. On the flip side, lets say the Fire Trucks WERE NOT at the Rhyne Park event and your family member collapsed and died; you would complain that the "Fire Trucks took forever to get here, it's their fault my loved one is deceased." Come on people, ease up on our Public Servants; the Fire Fighters are the people who are awoken from a dead sleep at 5:00 AM, drive as fast as they can to a call for help, only to pull up and find a hysterical mother in the front yard, holding her lifeless infant. What's wrong with a little fun kickball game while on duty to relieve the stress of the job?
George Lee October 05, 2011 at 01:09 AM
Public Safety Supporter, is very correct....I know the owner of the Fire truck in question!
Randy Smyrna realist October 05, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Public safety supporter: Thank you for a detailed account of ALL the fire trucks there. What's illegal is the presence of a campaign fire truck with signs all over it and city fire trucks on the same property for a public elementary school event. When you throw babies and firemen in it you sound like a true politician. I think it is really about a lobbyist/politician using tax payer property and unaware city employees for campaign purposes. It is illegal because it leads voters to believe that all fire trucks/firemen support this lobbyist/politician and not the other candidates.
Public Safety Supporter October 05, 2011 at 01:48 AM
I sure would like to see the Law that states it is illegal, never heard it myself, but I could be wrong. And, best of my recollection, the Firemen were playing kickball, and were no where near the Fennell Fire Truck. And why would a voter even fathom to think that because Smyrna Firefighters in shorts & t-shirts playing kickball, could even remotely be "supporting this lobbyist/politician and not the other candidates?" How did Fennel use "tax payer property" when the official Fire Trucks were parked over 300 yeard from the event? I think what it all boils down to is that Mr. Yankouski was just upset that his Campaign didn't draw NEAR as much attention as the Fennel Campaign. Mr. Yankouski can get on e-Bay tonight and purchase an antique Fire truck if he so desires; he has 46 days to drive it around town!!!
Rio October 05, 2011 at 01:52 AM
Randy, obviously you did not read all the above posts. The Firetruck with the banner on it is NOT a Smyrna Fire Truck. It Clearly says NEW YORK on it. It is an antique and is privately owned. It was not illegal to there or have a banner on the side of it. Just because you, among others, do not take the time to see that it was not a City vehicle is not the fault of anyone but yourselves.
George Lee October 05, 2011 at 01:55 AM
Well, have got to say... Donna or Alex, those are some great choices! I can tell you know a lot just from your name..Thanks :)
Inside-Out October 05, 2011 at 02:29 AM
Mr. Carmichael owns the retired/out of service fire truck. He bought it with his own money and can amrk that thing up any way he chooses and he can drive it anywhere he chooses. If Mr. Yankouski would have just taken a minute to find out who the truck belonged to then none of this would be up in the Public. I don't know Mr. Yankouski from Mr. Fennel so I don't have an interest in this than to say that It sure was a sorry way to start off oin an election stirring up a point that in fact was no point at all. And then to take it to the City Council while it was being televised did nothing but destroy any confidence in Yankouski. How can this man now think that the Public Safety people in Smyrna have any trust in this man as one of their Councilmen. A little bit of research would have gone a long way.
Inside-Out October 05, 2011 at 02:32 AM
Randy, Please let us all know where it is stated in the Gorgia code where an out of service Fire truck can't be on the same property ? " Thank you for a detailed account of ALL the fire trucks there. What's illegal is the presence of a campaign fire truck with signs all over it and city fire trucks on the same property for a public elementary school event" I am eagerly awaiting your reply.
Rio October 05, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Mike H. I have a feeling you might be waiting a while. Many of the people that post and state misinformation seem to lose their way back to a story once the real facts are presented.
George Lee October 05, 2011 at 02:38 AM
You would have better luck waiting at Barns and Nobels for hours, Researching the effects of spin on most of the Sleeping sheeple :)
c. smith October 05, 2011 at 03:10 AM
to Rio: Thank you. The City Council has very limited impact on the quality of our schools. Two of the candidates for Ward 7 consistently talk about the schools. As I stated in another comment --they need to run for the School Board.
c. smith October 05, 2011 at 03:29 AM
ISECTION 1.Code Section 21-2-3 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to prohibited placements of campaign posters, signs, and advertisements, is amended by striking subsection (a) and inserting a new subsection (a) to read as follows:"(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to place campaign posters, signs, and or advertisements:(1) Within the right of way of any public streets, roads, or highways; (2)(1) On any public property or building, unless the owner thereof or the occupier as authorized by such owner has given permission to place such posters, signs, or advertisements on such property; provided, however, that signs within the rights of way of public roads shall be governed by Code Section 32-6-51;
c. smith October 05, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Mr. Yankouski made no accusation. As he stated, he had asked for clarification from the Fire Chief, but because he was given two different answers to his question, he went to the Mayor and Council for further clarification. As someone else wrote, the Mayor himself seemed surprised by this information. Either he's a great actor, or he, himself, thought this was inappropriate. And it is, as a matter of fact, illegal for campaign signs to be on public property. (I will copy the GA law below.) If the truck was actually there for "entertainment" purposes, then it should not have been parked with the city equipment. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Perception is reality?" The owner should have been told that the truck needed to be parked elsewhere and, if inside the park, it should not have had campaign signs. Parks are public property, as far as I know. I know Mr. Yankouski's wife, and they fully support the fire and police personnel. They were at the recent event; she excitedly told me about three auction items she had "won." That money went to support our "First Responders."
Public Safety Supporter October 05, 2011 at 03:36 AM
As expected; Hmmmmmmm, doesn't say anything about campaign signs being placed on a "vehicle." Just says on public right of way, and public property or building. What's the difference in the above actions and a Candidate driving their own vehicle with campaign signs on it? Nothing. Thanks!
Inside-Out October 05, 2011 at 03:46 AM
Mr. Yankouski certainly did make an accusation that it was a city of Smyrna Fire Department vehicle. That was his entire purpose for bringing it up to the Mayor. I am not making this gentleman out to be anything but facts are facts and he should have found out who the Fire truck belonged to before going to the Smyrna Fire Deapartment and then a few hours later to the Mayor and council. He caught the Assistant Fire Chief off guard as well as the city council because they did not know anything at all about it. Of course later to discover the reason they didn't know anything about it was because it wasn't a city owned vehicle at all. Think of all the research that had to be done by city employees only to discover that it was not even a city vehicle. Like I said earlier, If he had done just a few seconds of research the truck had New York markings on it. As far as I know no one there had the authority to tell the owner of the Fire Truck to park at a specific location. Nice attempt at posting a law that does not cover at all what is being discussed.
George Lee October 05, 2011 at 04:31 AM
Re-read the law... please don't try to make them up as you go. just to try and prove a point. which your clearly mistaken on, and for what? it's not going to help get anyone elected to have facts wrong.....These matters should be left to the people qualified to make a determination, if a law has been broken! this is not the case. So please have your facts correct before posting false Statements and accusations.. you don't need me to tell you what this looks like! Thanks
D. Cook October 05, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Vick Yankouski was confused because he was given two answers. He wanted the answer. Now he has it. This is the last thing people living in Smyrna need to worry about. We've got a laundry list of issues that need to be dealt with. Term limits, no open government, lack of oversight, closed door bids, questionable land deals, lack of businesses, a vacant Market Village, failure of city leadership. The biggest issue is the unwillingness of this government to communicate with its ctiizens (who are also voters).
Cunningham October 13, 2011 at 09:22 PM
I have lived in Ward 5 for close to 30 years. Much has been accomplished, but like others, I have concern for HOW it has been done. I can state unequivocally that Jason Saliba is BY FAR the most qualified Ward 5 candidate. I find no candidate in any City race whose qualifications, motivation and intent surpass Jason's. Smyrna voters generally run to two extremes: The "Bacon Bits", who fully support the Mayor and Council; and the "Malcontents", who cry out for change and relief from years of underhanded, self-serving and destructive actions by the Mayor and Council. Jason Saliba is the only candidate that satisfies both groups of voters and those in between. He recognizes that the City has indeed accomplished much, but the very nature of his profession (Felony Prosecutor for Cobb County) combined with his education (Emory Law) makes him not only the most qualified candate in the City to detect and root out any wrong doings, but his job REQUIRES him to act upon any such findings. Jason is well suited to work productively with the Mayor and Council; to detect and resolve any "improprieties"; and to help effect needed change. Jason truly seems to be a kind-hearted man of great intellect, education and impeccable integrity who wants to serve his city and fellow citizens. Whether you feel the City is "on the right track", or rather that great change and investigation are needed, there is no better qualified candidate than Jason Saliba. I only wish he had run for Mayor.


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