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Free Press 011312

Free Press 011312

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Published by: hudgons on Jan 24, 2012
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DeKalb County gears up for winter weather
 by Daniel Beauregarddaniel@dekalbchamp.com
year ago, residents inDeKalb County andthroughout the metroAtlanta area were hit byone of the worst winter weather events in Georgia’s history: Astorm that brought about 4.5inches of snow and ice.During the week, as citiesattempted to deal with the snowand ice, schools were cancelled,residents lost power, mail washalted and many roads closed dueto safety precautions.Using last year’s unpredict-able winter as an example, resi-dents and municipalities are pre- paring for the worst case scenarioif another major weather event blows in.According to the NationalWeather Service’s website, thetemperature outlook for Januaryand February is slated to be 45 percent above normal. A spokes- person said any city during thewinter months could expect rain,freezing rain, snow and other hazardous conditions.However, the spokespersondid not speculate whether metroAtlanta residents could expectsuch significant weather events aslast year’s week-long ice storm.Locally
Burke Brennan
, aspokesman for DeKalb County,said the county has acquired sev-eral new pieces of equipment to prepare for winter weather.“We’re spending $452,000on new stuff,” Brennan said.“We’re getting eight more [snow plows], and in addition to that,we’re increasing our sand-saltmix and have 400 tons of that atthe ready.”Brennan said the snow plowsand spreaders aren’t independentunits but devices that can beattached to trucks the county al-ready has. He said last year, someresidents thought the countyneeded to get as many plows as possible in case another major snow/ice storm happened.“It’s always a balance. Lastyear was a 50-year event and wehaven’t seen anything like that indecades. People were of the opin-ion that we should get 100 snow plows but that’s not practical or  prudent,” Brennan said.When there is an ice stormlike the one last year, Brennansaid, it cost the county millionsin revenue if it lasts more thanseveral days. Although the equip-ment is vital, Brennan said, shor-ing up the county’s proceduresfor such an emergency was justas important.“We’ve also had an opportuni-ty to re-evaluate what streets aremost widely used and revisitedour planning and prioritizing,”Brennan said.Dunwoody Public WorksDirector 
Michael Smith
saidlast year’s winter events gave therelatively new city a chance totake its experience from the pastthree years and develop mapsfor its work crews of areas thatfrequently ice on main roads.Smith said the city works witha contractor to combat the winter weather, which he said was morecost effective than buying sandersand snow plows.“Our contractor has addeda second snow plow. We didn’thave any available last year butthis year we’re going to have twoin addition to our salt spreaders,”Smith said. “That equipment is atno cost to the city…We just payfor them as needed and basicallyrent them.”In addition to snow plows, saltand sand, Smith said Dunwoodyhas participated in regional dis-cussions the Georgia Departmentof Transportation has facilitatedwith cities and counties through-out the state.City of Stone Mountain CityManager 
Barry Amos
said he hasalso participated in the GDOT iceand snow preparation meetings.Amos said the city has securedthe services of a contractor withsnow and ice control and removalequipment who will be on call inthe event of inclement weather.On Nov. 17, GDOT an-nounced the launch of its new in-clement weather page, www.dot.ga.gov/winterweather .GDOTwill also use social media outletssuch as Facebook and Twitter todistribute information and updatethe public of any severe weather situations.“The new webpage is a greatway to let the public immediatelysee updates on road conditions,”said chairman of the state trans- portation board
Rudy Bowen
. “Iam excited to see the departmentexpanding its reach to differentmarkets by increasing the use of social media.”
Page 2A The Champion Free Press, Friday January 13, 2012
Lawyers argue over witnesses in Dunwoody daycare killing case
A hand like this.
It took a skillful hand like this to draft the plans of our nation’s capital city.It was a visionary hand like this which pointed out the moral superiorityof a way based on character and not color. It was a thorough, good handlike this that championed our rights before the U.S. Supreme Court. It tookmillions of laboring hands like this to build the wealth and infrastructureof this mighty country. And it was a raised hand like this that was swornin and gave kids of all complexions and cultures the legitimacy to believethey can achieve anything.In honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Georgia Power takes pridein celebrating the countless hands like this which have worked to uplift usall. We’ve got to hand it to you.
 by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comThere are more than 100witnesses on the state’s list inthe trial against
Hemy Neu-man
, the man charged in the November 2010 killing of 
outsidehis child’s daycare center.But the question on Jan. 4was whether 
,the attorney for Neuman’s wife
, would be forced to tes-tify when the trial begins nextmonth.Lawyers for Neuman weretrying to convince Superior Court Judge
 to allow them to question Pa-nitch when they try to defend Neuman, who is pleading notguilty by reason of insanity.
, an attorneyfor Neuman, would not say inopen court exactly why Panitchis on their witness list.“We are not playing gameswith the court,” Rubin said.“We are not playing gameswith Ms. Panitch. We think shehas independent facts in thecase.”Panitch’s attorney, in ex- plaining his motion toquash the subpoena, said,“There is nothing that shehas that is direct evidence.”Panitch, who is repre-senting Ariela Neuman inher divorce petition againsther husband, has “no inde- pendent knowledge, no in-dependent facts pertainingto this [alleged] crime,” her attorney said.Rubin said, “We are notseeking information abouther conversations [with her client]. I do not want privi-leged information.”In another motion, thedistrict attorney’s ofce istrying to get a copy of theresults of the mental evalu-ation of Neuman that wasrequested by the defenseteam. Neuman’s lawyerssay the information is sub- ject to attorney-client privi-lege.The primary reason toquash the report is that theevaluation is protected byattorney-client privilege because it was work the at-torney is using to represent Neuman, Rubin said.
, the doc-tor performing the evalua-tion “did not do an evalu-ation for the purpose of testifying in court,” Rubinsaid. “He does not testify incourt.”Rubin said Neuman wastold what he revealed toThomas would not be dis-cussed in court.“The attorney-client privilege is held sacro-sanct,” Rubin said. “Wewere trying to understandwhat this case was allabout. It was never an-ticipated that he would be awitness in this case.”Rubin said the districtattorney ofce has had theopportunity to do its ownevaluation of Neuman.Judge Adams is takingthe motions under consid-eration.
Page 3A The Champion Free Press, Friday January 13, 2012
How we roll—FODAC keeps those withdisabilities moving even during tough times
Commissioners, CEO beginyear fighting over form ofgovernment, planning director
 by Kathy Mitchellkathy@dekalbchamp.comTwo crime stories last year were made all the more heart-rending because the criminalsdid not just take away propertythey took away individuals’ability to function. One in-volved a family whose 9-year-old daughter lost her customwheelchair when the familyvan was stolen from a church parking lot. The other involveda custom-made wheelchair thatwas destroyed in a re set by burglars.Both stories have a little-known, behind the scenes hero.Friends of Disabled Adults andChildren (FODAC), a StoneMountain-based non-prot,stepped in and immediately provided suitable wheelchairs,a process that through normalchannels could take weeks,even months, and could costfamilies thousands of dol-lars. FODAC provides morethan $9 million annually indurable medical equipment andsupplies at little or no cost tochildren and adults with dis-abilities.While only a few years ago,most middle-class familiescould depend on insurance for the medical equipment theyneeded, the picture is changing.Georgia continues to have oneof the highest unemploymentrates in the country and manyfamilies that once were com-fortably middle-class are suf-fering under extreme economicdistress. When those families,who are often without adequateinsurance coverage, are alsodealing with the effects of adisability, they have to look elsewhere for support.“In the current economy,we’re providing more andmore help to middle-class fam-ilies, where because of lost jobsor discontinuation of insurance benets, families aren’t ableto get vital pieces of medicalequipment,” said
Chris Brand
, president of FODAC. “Peopledealing with catastrophichealth conditions in tougheconomic times are among themost vulnerable members of our community.”The co-pay on a custom piece of equipment can be$2,000 to $8,000. “Familiestoday just can’t afford that,”Brand said.The situation, Brand pointed out, does not just affectfamilies in which a member has a disability. “When some-one can’t work because he or she doesn’t have the equipmentto move about, the person hasto live on government benetsand that impacts all of us astaxpayers,” he said.FODAC cleans, repairsand refurbishes equipment for  persons with disabilities, thenmakes it available—usually atno cost— to those who needit. “One of the few things wecharge for are batteries, whichwe buy at a discount and sell atcost. We insist that every pieceof equipment that leaves herehave a good battery so it willkeep working as it’s supposedto,” Brand said.In addition to wheelchairs,FODAC provides walkers,hospital beds, power chairs,scooters, shower seats, liftchairs, bedside commodes,children’s positioning chairsand other equipment. The orga-nization also provides trainingin equipment use and accessmodications to homes andvehicles.While a person can some-times get the equipment he or she needs through a govern-ment agency, the process usual-ly involves navigating complex paperwork and being placedon a long waiting list. “Anaccident can cause a personto become disabled in a veryshort period of time. A personwho needs special equipmentto function shouldn’t have towait six months to get it,” saidBrand. While the organizationwas founded to help those atthe lowest income levels, FO-DAC does not require proof of income from its clients.Because of its huge inven-tory of equipment, FODACusually helps almost immedi-ately. “We can take parts fromone piece of equipment tomodify another until we havewhat the person needs. Nothinggoes to waste. Through recy-cling everything from parts to batteries to upholstery we keepsome 185 tons of waste out of DeKalb County’s landlls,”Brand said.Started 25 years ago byStone Mountain resident
, who operated thecharity out of his own home,FODAC has become the larg-est organization of its type in
See FODAC on Page 9ASee CEO on Page 13A
 by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comWith the Board of Com-missioners failure to over-ride a veto by the county’sCEO, the movement tochange DeKalb’s form of government has run into aroadblock.That failure precededsome tense moments whenCEO
Burrell Ellis
made arare visit to the board meet-ing Jan. 10 to lobby for acontroversial appointment.Last month, with a voteof 6-1, the board passed aresolution that would haveasked DeKalb’s state legis-lative delegation to createa commission to study thecounty’s form of govern-ment.Currently, the county isrun by the seven-member Board of Commissioners,which is the legislative branch, and an elected CEOwho runs the day-to-day op-erations of the government.Just before the Christmasholiday, Ellis vetoed themeasure.Citing the 6-1 vote onthe resolution, Commis-sioner 
said, “I’mdisappointed that the CEOwanted to veto this.“I stand by my previousstatement on there being areal need to study this formof government,” said May,who brought the issue back to the board for the overridevote.“Let’s do a professionalstudy of our form of gov-ernment…to ensure that itis the most efcient,” Maysaid.With Commissioner 
Ka-thie Gannon
voting againstthe override, Commissioner 
abstaining andCommissioner 
Stan Watson
  being absent, there were notenough votes to override theveto.Ellis said the real issuesfacing the county are jobs,housing, transportation andcityhood, not the county’sform of government.“These are the issues thatDeKalb citizens care about,not issues that are manufac-tured by some members of the board of commission-ers,” Ellis said.Board members are plan-ning to revisit the form of government resolution whenall members of the board are present at the Jan. 24 ses-sion.“The board may bringit up again, but the peoplearen’t bringing it up,” Ellissaid.Ellis made an unexpectedvisit to the commissioners’meeting after controversydeveloped over the appoint-ment of 
Gary A. Cornell
onJan. 9 to serve as the interimdirector of the department of  planning and sustainability.Cornell has 33 years of  professional experience incity and regional planning,including seven years asthe director of GwinnettCounty’s Department of Planning and Development,seven years as a principaltransportation planner at theAtlanta Regional Commis-sion, three years as a planner in residence at Florida StateUniversity, and 11 years as asenior community planningconsultant for Jacobs Engi-neering.“He is eminently quali-ed to serve as DeKalbCounty’s director of plan-ning and sustainability,”Ellis said. Cornell “is the best planning director thatDeKalb County has ever had.”When Cornell appeared before the board to giveroutine zoning information,some board members ob- jected.May said he was con-cerned that the CEO is hir-ing an interim director wheninterim positions are usuallylled by an existing em- ployee.“What you’re doing nowis bringing someone fromthe outside to the position,”May said, adding that thereis no job description for aninterim director.Commissioner Rader called the objections of some board members “pet-ty.”Rader said Cornell “is probably one of the mosthighly regarded planning di-rectors in the state.”Board members are hold-ing up the conrmation of Cornell in their desire “toundermine the administra-tion,” Rader said.
FODAC President Chris Brand said his organization keeps a huge inventory of wheelchairs and other equipment. Photo by Kathy Mitchell

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