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Free Press 11-25-11

Free Press 11-25-11

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Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.
See Lithonia on Page 15A
Lithonia election indanger of do-over
 by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comThe city of Lithonia may have to redoits recent election.To comply with the Voting Rights Act,all elections in Georgia must be precleared by the federal Justice Department—an ac-tion still pending for Lithonia’s election.And missing recordings of city councilmeetings may play a part in sparing thecity a do-over.The Justice Department has asked for more information about the special elec-tion to ll the vacant council seats, CityAttorney
Winston Denmark 
said. Thedepartment wants to see a resolution fromthe council showing that it voted to holdthe Nov. 8 election.The city had the option to hold theelection on Nov. 8 or in March 2012, butdecided to hold it this month to ll theseats vacated by
Deborah Jackson
, whoran for and won the mayoral position, and
Al Franklin
, who sought unsuccessfully tokeep his seat.Since there was already an election thismonth about school taxes, Lithonia councilmembers decided to hold a special electionthis month to avoid using taxpayer moneyfor another one in March.“It wasn’t fair to the citizens to have anelection in November and another electionthat they were going to have to pay for out of tax money in March,”
said.Although the city council did not adoptsuch a resolution, council members saidthey came to a consensus that would bereflected in the council’s minutes, if somewere available.“There wasn’t a vote taken,” De Cocqsaid. “There was a discussion.” Now the city is trying to locate the min-utes or tapes of meetings held from May toAugust.“I don’t even know what to say,” saidcouncil member 
Doreen Carter
. “I don’tknow why we don’t have the tapes. I don’tunderstand why we don’t have the minutes.“We have no control over these tapesonce they leave the council meeting,”Carter said. “When we had a city clerk,the city clerk had the tapes. But during this particular time we didn’t have a city clerk.The mayor is the one with possession of the tapes.”City administrator 
hiredan Atlanta company to transcribe the tapeswhich have yet to be returned to the city.
International Festival revives oldGM plant in Doraville for weekend
 by Daniel Beauregarddaniel@dekalbchamp.com
he old General Motors fac-tory in Doraville that has beenvacant for nearly three yearssaw a fleeting breath of life thisweekend as hundreds attended therst DeKalb International Food andMusic Festival.The festival, which was held Nov. 12, featured food vendors fromall over DeKalb County, and worldmusic performances throughout theafternoon and evening.“Thank you for coming outtoday, for having a good time, for  being a face that everybody doesn’tget to see. The true face of Americalies right here in DeKalb County sogive yourselves a round of applauseand have a good time,” DeKalbCounty CEO
Burrell Ellis
told thecrowd.The food included reasonably priced dishes from Ethiopian, Ja-maican, Korean and Caribbean ven-dors and attendees were encouragedto walk around and enjoy the music.There were also covered eating ar-eas.“This is a wonderful day inDeKalb County because it is oneof the most diverse counties in our nation,” DeKalb County Commis-sioner 
Sharon Barnes Sutton
Stan Watson
, the DeKalbCounty commissioner instrumentalin putting the festival together, saidthe support was overwhelming andall his expectations were met.“They told me that a little over 1,000 people showed up, which isimpressive for the rst year. I think the music was also the most diversething I’ve seen in DeKalb County,”Watson said.Throughout the evening, musicalgroups performed traditional musicfrom places including Romania, theCaribbean, Korea and China.“I had a great time; I stayed thereall day until they closed the gate. Ithought about this a year ago and Isaw my idea come to fruition andI think that next year we’ll have aneven bigger festival,” Watson said.
Residents crowded into the parking lot of the old General Motors plant in Doraville for the first DeKalb InternationalFood and Music Festival. Photos by Daniel BeauregardDeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman, County Commissioners Stan Watson and SharonBarnes Sutton, and former CEO Liane Levitan welcomed attendees and vendors to the first DeKalb International Foodand Music Festival held on Nov. 12.
Page 2A The Champion Free Press, Friday November 25, 2011
Commissioners want to lengthen foreclosure process
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 by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comIt should take more than30 days to foreclose onhomeowners having difculty paying their mortgages.That’s what the DeKalbCounty Board of Commis-sioners afrmed earlier thismonth when it voted to adopta resolution to lengthen theforeclosure process from 30days to 90 days. The resolu-tion will ask the county’slegislative delegation to theGeorgia General Assembly tosupport legislation extendingthe process.“Georgia is a leading statein the number of foreclo-sures,” said Commissioner 
Kathie Gannon
. “That’s part-ly because of the very shortlength of time that it takes to process foreclosures.”Gannon said that “in manyother states where that pro-cess is much longer, it provesto be an incentive to the banksto actually work out loanmodications and other alter-natives to keep those homesoccupied.”In Georgia, “the bankshave no motivation or time,for that matter, to work outmodications,” Gannon said.In DeKalb County, onein every 320 housing unitsreceived a foreclosure l-ing in October, according tostatistics from RealtyTrac. InEllenwood the rate was one in106 homes and Lithonia, therate was one in 142 homes.Statewide, 10,000 homesreceived foreclosure lings, or one in 406 homes, in October.“It’s a continuing prob-lem,” Gannon said. “It’s cer-tainly going to be an uphill battle in the legislature tochange those kinds of laws, but I think that it is importantthat we continue to push for that.”
Page 3A The Champion Free Press, Friday November 25, 2011
Local News
School systems workon SPLOST schedule
 by Daniel Beauregarddaniel@dekalbchamp.comWith the passage of aspecial sales tax referendumon Nov. 8, DeKalb, Atlantaand Decatur school systemsare developing a timetableover ve years for the proj-ects they will fund with the$600 million they are pro- jected to receive from thetax.The Special PurposeLocal Option Sales Tax(SPLOST) passed county-wide with a vote of 62 per-cent and begins on July 1,2012. The 1 percent tax willhelp pay for school renova-tions, capital improvement projects and revampingtechnology in schools.City Schools of Decatur will receive approximately$18 million from the taxand has a project list thatincludes renovations at Ren-froe Middle School, the cre-ation of a new central ofce building, energy-efcieneychanges for HVAC systemsand additional elementaryclassrooms.“We are grateful for your continued support of our school district. Our studentsand faculty will benetgreatly from the prioritiesoutlined in our SPLOST IVPlan,” City Schools of De-catur Superintendent
said.“On behalf of the boardI want to make sure that wecommit our pledge to youthat we will be accountableand transparent to the use of those SPLOST dollars thatyou chose to trust us with,”DeKalb School BoardChairman
Tom Bowen
saidat a recent meeting.In addition to the con-struction projects currentlyunder way, such as the building of the new Cham- blee Charter High School,the system is developing atimetable to decide whichones are most urgent. Thisyear, the system is also re- building seven elementaryschools.“For the capital renewal piece we’re going to do thatin the order of the highestneed but with the larger  projects, it’s going to de- pend on the complexityof the project,” said
, the system’s director of planning and forecasting.Drake said the systemhopes to have a completedtimetable by March but itwould begin on some of the projects—such as installingnew HVAC units at schoolsin need—as soon as pos-sible.“We just want to makesure that we do the best planning,” Drake said.Recently, the system an-nounced its developmentof a citizens’ oversightcommittee to watch howSPLOST dollars will bespent. Six members of the12-person committee will be appointed by Superinten-dent
Cheryl Atkinson
. Therst six will then appoint theadditional six members.School system spokes-man
Walter Woods
said thecommittee is a superinten-dent committee rather than a board committee and Atkin-son would begin appointingmembers within 30 days.“We’re looking for peo- ple with expertise in termsof construction, account-ing and audits, people whoknow what they’re lookingat,” Woods said.Atlanta Public Schoolsalso receives $19.5 millionfrom the tax and schoolsystem spokesman
said severalschools in the systemlocated in DeKalb Countywould undergo projectssuch as upgrades of securityinfrastructure, and HVACrepairs and replacements.
Ordinance addressesundetectable water leaks,forgives associated high bills
 by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comDeKalb County resi-dents with high water billsresulting from previouslyundiscovered water lineleaks could get some relief from a new ordinance.The county’s Board of Commissioners passed anordinance on Nov. 8 thatsets up a policy of forgivingsome excessive water bills.There are many circum-stances that “make a highwater bill a complete sur- prise to a constituent,” saidCommissioner 
Jeff Rader
.“When they get sur- prised by that, they oftenend up calling their com-missioner’s ofces and wetry to serve as their interme-diary to get an appropriateand fair adjustment to thatwater bill based on the cir-cumstance of the situation,”Rader said. “This ends uptaking a great deal of our time from the customer ser-vice side perspective.”“We do get a lot of com- plaints about high water  bills,” said Commissioner 
Lee May
. “This should provide a little additionalrelief.”“This does still meanyou must watch you water usage,” May said. “As yousee wild swings with your water bill you should takeaction right then and there.”Sometimes, an undetect-able leak occurs in the un-derground line between themeter and the house.“It may be leakingwater with no evidencewhatsoever on the surface,”Rader said. The only waya customer may discover the problem is when anunusually high water bill isreceived.During a single billingcycle, if an undetectableleak is suspected becauseof a high bill, the customer will not be held responsiblefor that large bill, accordingto the ordinance.“If you received no ben-ecial use of the water, thenyou shouldn’t have to payfor the water,” Rader said.Previously, “the county’s basic policy was that if itgoes through your meter,you owe for the water,”Rader said.“We’re glad that aswe’re moving forwardon a capital improvement program to eliminate thewasting of water on [thecounty’s] side of the meter,we’re likewise also goingto raise the bar on the wast-ing on the customer side,”Rader said.The ordinance sets up penalties for wasting water and requires customers tox broken systems oncediscovered. If a customer does not repair or report aleak “for any period of time beyond which the leak, break or malfunction rea-sonably should have beencorrected, the county mayterminate water service tothe premises,” according tothe ordinance.Once the customer dis-covers or is made aware of the leak, he has two busi-ness days to repair the leak.If water service is cut bythe county, it will not berestored until the leak isrepaired and all outstandingwater bills, including theadministrative fees for thetermination and restorationof water service, have been paid to the county,” the or-dinance states.The ordinance “gives thecounty the tools try to sup- press the wasting of water,”Rader said.

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