Atlanta council wants more time to study jail proposal

Atlanta city council members say they're interested in selling its jail to Fulton County, but most of them said Monday they don't want to rush it.

The council voted Monday evening to delay its support for a proposal introduced last week by top aides to Mayor Shirley Franklin. The plan would lease the jail to the county for 15 years for a combined $41.7 million. The officials lobbied council members over the past week to support the agreement, saying it will save Atlanta about $16 million a year.

Several council members said during a marathon meeting Monday that they will wait before endorsing the proposed arrangement. Councilman Ivory Lee Young noted that although the city is currently using fewer beds in the jail, that could change with the increase in some non-violent crime.

"There's more work that needs to be done to vet this," he said.

Fulton would set aside up to 400 of its 1300 beds for city inmates. Atlanta's corrections officers would have preference to work in the jail.

Several current and former corrections officers urged the council to delay the vote to give all parties more time to study the impact on employees and their pensions. Fulton County is in the midst of a feasibility study concerning the proposal.

The council voted 9-4 in favor of a resolution calling for some proposal by the end of March or soon afterward.

The council also decided not to vote on an ordinance that requires nearly all new construction to be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Council members said developers and environmentalists involved in the discussions needed more time to resolve their differences with the ordinance.

The guidelines include planting more trees on properties, landscaping that can withstand extreme weather conditions and even demanding operators of diesel-fuel construction vehicles to leave their engines idling. The legislation would not impact single-family homes, multi-family properties three floors or less, historic structures or new commercial development that is 1,500 square feet or less.

The council's actions came during an eight-hour meeting that was part nostalgia and part passing of the torch. It was the last city council meeting of the year and likely the final time Mayor Shirley Franklin and others would speak as elected officials in the ornate council chamber.

Franklin is one of six elected officials in the city's executive and legislative branch who will leave office at the end of the year. City Council President Lisa Borders, along with council members Anne Fauver, Jim Maddox, Clair Muller and Mary Norwood all resigned or unsuccessfully campaigned for other city positions this year.  The new officials take office Jan. 4.

Franklin, who first came to City Hall in the 1970s as an administrator, kept her remarks brief.

"To all that make Atlanta the great city that it is, I wish you well and Godspeed," said the mayor, who was greeted with a standing ovation.

Norwood, who ran for mayor, has said she wants a recount. She arrived late Monday and did not address the council.

The council briefly suspended the meeting to let Mayor-elect Kasim Reed speak. Reed shook hands with Norwood, his runoff opponent, and the other council members. Reed said he wanted to "extend a hand of friendship and partnership" to the council.

"It's going to take all of the talent of this council ... to get through the times we have in front of us," said Reed.

"At heart, I am really a legislator," added Reed, who gave up his state senate seat to run for mayor.

Maddox, whose 32-year tenure on the council is believed to be the longest in city history, gave a longer speech asserting that Atlanta has the potential to "become one of the great international cities."

Borders, meanwhile, checked off some accomplishments such as creating the Beltline, completing the fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and beginning the work on water and sewer system improvements.

"We have done a lot," said Borders.