No vote on DeKalb official’s push for more testing at Atlanta police site

A DeKalb County official’s push for closer examination of the site where Atlanta plans to build a sprawling public safety training center hit another speed bump Tuesday.

DeKalb Commissioner Ted Terry — whose district includes the 85 city-owned acres where the Atlanta Police Foundation plans to build the training center — first introduced last month a resolution that, among other things, asks for more intensive environmental studies of the site. Because Atlanta owns the property it does not have to follow normal zoning rules, but the county does have to grant land disturbance permits for the project to proceed.

Those permits which do require site testing prior to approval, are still pending.

Terry’s resolution was discussed in a tense Tuesday afternoon meeting of the county commission’s planning committee, but a vote was deferred for at least two weeks — as representatives more closely affiliated with the training center project defended the work that’s been done so far and Terry’s colleagues asked for more collaboration between the city and the county.

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Alison Clark, a DeKalb resident and chair of citizen stakeholder advisory committee created by the Atlanta City Council, attended the meeting and lambasted Terry. Highlighting site plan changes the volunteer board has succeeded in getting approved, she called the commissioner’s resolution “wholly inappropriate” and suggested it was an attempt to “discredit the work and integrity” of the committee.

“I do not appreciate the continued efforts of Mr. Terry to force this body into an oversight role,” Clark said.

Marshall Freeman, chief operating officer of the Atlanta Police Foundation, said firms working for the organization have completed site testing and analysis that “far exceeded” what’s required by law.

But as Freeman referenced a “Phase II LSI” that had been performed, Terry repeatedly asked him to explain what the acronym stood for.

“Limited site investigation,” Freeman said.

Terry has said that’s not enough for a site that used to be a prison farm and has potentially been contaminated by human and animals remain, as well as pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

DeKalb’s planning director, meanwhile, said that the police foundation’s land disturbance application is being considered just as anyone else’s would be — and that county code does not require what Terry’s resolution is calling for. Fellow commissioners then suggested that Terry simply ask DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond to request that the city of Atlanta to complete such a study.

“That’s a great idea,” responded Terry, who has often butted heads with Thurmond. “Does anybody know how to get a meeting with the CEO?”

Thurmond, for his part, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board in late July that he’d “not had any official discussions with anyone from Atlanta” regarding the training center.

“There is a real need for leadership in DeKalb and Atlanta to come together to try to achieve some consensus about this major facility,” Commissioner Jeff Rader said Tuesday. “I do think that we need to see more consensus building.”