City of Brookhaven open for business

With a bit of midnight madness – just before and just after the witching hour – Brookhaven officially became DeKalb County’s largest and Georgia’s newest city in the wee hours Monday.

Council members, just seated two weeks ago, met late Sunday and early Monday, making sure Brookhaven has local laws and some interim workers to help get things done.

Still, the new city looks a lot like the old county. DeKalb police continue to patrol there. City business licenses can be had only at county offices.

And the two governments are expected to soon hash out a deal that keeps it that way for months to come.

“I think everyone expected it would take time to plan,” Dana Baker, a flight attendant who supported cityhood and is willing to accept the lag time before the city is running its own services. “It wasn’t a landslide for cityhood, so they need time to bring everyone together.”

Voters approved Brookhaven this summer with 55 percent of the vote, the slimmest margin yet for the new cities that began popping up after Sandy Springs incorporated in 2005.

Dunwoody was the last new city formed from DeKalb, in 2008. But unlike that city, which gave itself several months to plan and make decisions, Brookhaven’s first day comes just two weeks after a council was seated.

In that time, members have moved quickly on recommendations from a governor’s panel set up to help plan. The panel ranked and recommended private firms expected to provide most government services.

Most recent approvals include paying $246,400 to create a temporary city hall in Building 200 of Ashford Center North, an office complex in Dunwoody and paying UHY about $1 million to create and run the city’s finance and administrative offices.

Late Friday, the council also agreed to pay Jacobs $434,600 to set up and run a municipal court system; and pay Jacobs $297,300 and The Collaborative $416,400 to set up a communications department, including a website that might go live Monday.

“We are being methodical and deliberate so we do the right thing for the citizens of Brookhaven,” Mayor J. Max Davis said of the slow wave of contract approvals. “We are committed to starting right.”

Some decisions, though, have been made quickly with no public input. Last week, the council hired Marie Garrett as interim city manager, a role she held in the start-up of Johns Creek. The council also hired J.D. Clockadale, who cancelled his run for council to volunteer on the governor’s panel, as a temporary deputy city manager.

For the work, Garrett will earn $200 an hour, or $8,000 for a full-time week. Clockadale will earn $2,500 a week.

So far, the pair have mostly been handling the nuts and bolts of setting up the city hall offices that open Monday. They also will help plot the timeline, for when Brookhaven will roll out its own police force, start maintaining its streets and take over the parks.

That is the work that residents are, so far, patiently waiting to see.

“As long as people can see some kind of timetable, I think it will be alright,” said DeAnna Ng, a marketing manager at a software company. “If we can be set up in six or nine months, I think that would still be incredibly fast.”

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