Spilling out of the large room where Fulton County commissioners held a special meeting Monday night, more than 200 people attended a session to learn more about the process of creating a new city.
Residents voted last month to form the City of South Fulton, and since then, Fulton staffers have been peppered with questions about what comes next.
In a board meeting at the South Fulton Service Center, residents were able to ask the commissioners their questions directly, as they learned more about the process.
Crime reduction and improved police and fire response times were topics of importance for a number of people. Others were interested in economic development and whether the new city would have access to money voters approved to pay for road and other transportation improvements. (It will.)
There were comments about litter, the Wolf Creek Amphitheater and working with the school system. And several residents who plan to run for office introduced themselves to the crowd.
Gov. Nathan Deal will be naming a five-person transition team in the coming days to help manage the effort. Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, said he came to the meeting from the governor’s mansion, where the list of names was being finalized.
Fulton has already formed an internal team that will help the county transition its own services to the new city, but the Deal-appointed team will help create the new city’s structure. Todd Long, Fulton’s chief operating officer, said that team would not be able to sign contracts or spend public funds. But members of that team will serve as a conduit between the county and the residents. The new city’s government will be elected in March and the city officially forms May 1.
Long also told residents that the county is continuing to invest in the area that will become the City of South Fulton, hiring firefighters and buying new police cars and body cameras for officers.
Noting that many residents had talked about their concerns regarding crime, Commissioner Marvin Arrington told the rest of the board that he was working with the county attorney to see if he could deny liquor licenses at businesses where crime had risen. At gas stations and neighborhoods, residents are “under attack,” Arrington said.
“We need immediate help,” he said, citing conversations on the website NextDoor. “It’s holiday time. We’re about to be under triple attack.”
Arrington and other commissioners also congratulated residents on voting to form the new city. Arrington told voters than there is no longer room for “yes” or “no” opinions about cityhood — “there is only how do we go forward from here?”
Commissioner Lee Morris told residents if he had lived in the area, he would have voted to form a city as a way to bring government closer to the people who live there. He urged voters to elect “good people” when they go to the polls, and said he was “delighted” at the turnout at the meeting.
Commissioner Joan Garner wished residents well, saying she wanted the new city to succeed, while Commissioner Emma Darnell said she would like to continue to have meetings in South Fulton to keep people apprised of the progress.
Reminding residents that the county board had unanimously supported their right to vote on forming a city, Fulton Chairman John Eaves said the county would continue to provide for residents until the transition to a new government was complete.
“Our hope is that the handoff will be seamless and smooth,” he said. “A successful City of South Fulton translates into a successful Fulton County.”
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