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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.

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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