During Olympics, Peachtree Curling Association clinics spread enthusiasm for the sport

Peachtree Curling Association
The Peachtree Curling Association offered adult clinics Saturday and has a free kids clinic from 2-5 Sunday. (East Cobb News photos by Wendy Parker)

While mild winter weather was expected to reach into the 70s on Saturday, a couple dozen people huddled inside the Peachtree Curling Association facility in East Cobb, bundled up in jackets and pullovers.

“Sweep! Sweep!” shouted Canadian Olympic gold medalist Jamie Korab during a clinic at the club’s climate-controlled building behind the Marietta Ice Center and Parkaire Landing Shopping Center.

Inside the building, the temperatures are 45 degrees. On the nearly two inches of ice that extends over 9,000 square feet, it’s 25 degrees.

While the Winter Olympics continue in South Korea, the Peachtree club is using the occasion to spread the gospel of curling, and it’s one that several members admittedly have been soaking up in recent years.

Peachtree Curling Association
Jamie Korab won a gold medal for Canada in curling at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

One of them is Jessica Sammis of Lilburn, who commutes regularly to the only curling rink in Georgia. She got interested in curling after watching the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, which sparked greater interest below the Canadian border (curling became an official Olympic medal sport in 1998).

“It’s a very approachable sport,” said Sammis, a former PCA board member.

Not only are the equipment costs low, she said, “this is something that you can come out and start learning to do in a short amount of time. But it takes a lifetime to master.”

In curling, participants aim a 42-pound stone down a straight line, for a distance of 148 feet, scoring points for how close they can come to placing the stones in the center rings at the other end of the ice.

Altering the direction and the speed of the stones is where the sweeping comes in, and Saturday’s clinic broke down the fundamentals in very elementary ways.

After learning how to “throw” the stone—which is polished granite and made in Scotland, the sport’s ancestral home—participants were instructed in sweeping. While the motion looks similar to what you might do at home on your kitchen floor, the equipment isn’t something you can pick up at a retail store.Peachtree Curling Association

“This is the only sweeping I do,” joked Sammis.

She was among the organizers of the Peachtree Curling Association, which got started in 2015, and then got word that a youth hockey rink behind the Marietta Ice Center might be closed.

The curling group offered to turn the rink into a dedicated curling facility. After the building was donated, more than 40 volunteers worked to bring it to curling specifications.

The non-profit Peachtree Curling Association is one of 165 curling groups in 43 states, according to USA Curling, and has around 75 members. Nationwide, the national governing body claims 20,000 members.

“The vast majority of our club members started after the Olympics four years ago,” said Bob Hogan, current president of the Peachtree Curling Association. What he likes about the sport is how it draws participants of all ages, and that range was evident at Saturday’s clinic.Peachtree Curling Club

He’s played with his family, including daughters in their early 20s.

The U.S. has only one medal in curling, a bronze in 2006, in a sport dominated at the international level by Canada and northern European nations. Exposing youngsters to the basics is a major component of USA Curling’s outreach.

Sunday’s clinic for kids ages 11-18 will take place from 2-5 p.m. and is free.

Other adult clinics continue Saturday at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and the cost is $30 a person.

The group also offers beginner (101) and intermdiate (201) clinics during its “season,” which continues into May. The building is closed during the summer, and reopens in October.

The Peachtree Curling Assocation is located at 4880 Lower Roswell Road, Suite 910.

 

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Lassiter Band fundraiser nets $12K for Roses parade trip

Lassiter Band fundraiser

Lassiter Band students held a mattress sale fundraiser last weekend for their 2019 appearance at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif. Band mom volunteer Sharon Renaud sent us this photo, band vice president Richard Stinson hoisting a check for $12,000, the proceeds from the event.

She adds that fundraising efforts will continue throughout the year. Students will be raffling off  2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport 4×4, donated by Ed Voyles, and the drawing will be held Nov. 17.

Tickets are $10 each and may be purchased from Lassiter Band students, parents, or by emailing JeepRaffle@lbba.org. The booster association web page can be found here.

 

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Georgia Arbor Day observed with tree planting at Skip Wells Park

Georgia Arbor Day, Skip Wells Park

A special tree was planted at Skip Wells Park in Northeast Cobb on Friday to celebrate Georgia Arbor Day. While the federal holiday began in 1872, Arbor Day in Georgia was first proclaimed in 1890, and there’s been an official state designation since 1941.

From L-R: Donovan of U.S. Rep. Karen Handel’s office; Ga. State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick; Georgia Forestry Commission arborist Joe Burgess; Richard Trapanese, grandfather of Skip Wells; and Cobb commissioner JoAnn Birrell.

 

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Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center owners issued ‘blight tax’ letter

Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center

The Cobb Community Development Department has sent a notice to the owners of the Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center demanding it address conditions at the decaying retail property that may run afoul of the county’s new “blight tax” provision.

The letter, delivered Thursday to Brannen Goddard, an Atlanta commercial real estate agency representing Sprayberry Crossing Partnership (PDF here), said the owners have 30 days to provide a “reasonable” plan to make improvements to the shopping center, located at the southeast corner of Sandy Plains Road and East Piedmont Road.

Sprayberry Crossing has long been the subject of complaints from nearby residents. Although several small businesses operate there, most of the shopping center is vacant and has been in deteriorating conditions for years.

Related coverage

The community development office conducted an inspection of the property in late January and concluded that Sprayberry Crossing met three of the conditions for designation as a blighted property: having an uninhabitable, unsafe or unsound structure; being conducive to “ill health” to those in close proximity to the property; and being the subject of repeated reports of illegal activity on the premises.

The letter included photographs from the inspection showing boarded-up windows and holes in the structures and a list of 28 reports of criminal incidents dating back to 2014.

In the letter, written by Cobb community development director Dana Johnson, the findings of the inspection include evidence of gang activity near the former bowling alley at the back of the property, no proper storm drainage provisions, vandalized mechanical equipment, utility lines laying across the parking lot and signs of repeated break-ins.

Last July the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a code amendment called the Community Improvement Tax Incentive Program, which allows for the county to set forth several criteria for determining a blighted property. It can then conduct inspections of run-down businesses and rental properties and prompt repairs. Ultimately, the county could impose a fine of seven times the current millage rate for violators.

Blighted properties that meet compliance after that would be eligible for a millage rate reduction for up to two years.

Joe Glancy, creator of the Sprayberry Crossing Action Facebook group that’s been pushing for a solution, wrote that while the letter from the county represents “a victory for our community and another step in the right direction. . . . I’m sure most of you also know, this is hardly the end.”

The citizens’ group has been frustrated by what it has said is a lack of cooperation from the property owners. Glancy urged his group to “to turn up the heat on the ownership group and county to move this process forward.”

The group has scheduled a community meeting on March 21 at Sprayberry High School.

We’re getting in touch with the property owner and will post a response if and when we get it.

 

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Cobb school choice applications accepted until Feb. 28

Press release:

Extending Cobb students’ ability to apply to attend a school outside of their designated school zone, the Cobb County School District opened 5,800 transfer seats this year.Cobb schools open on Friday

The online application deadline for these transfers is Wednesday, February 28. Available space at a school is based on permanent classroom space, which includes seats at each grade level.

Although parents are not required to provide reasons why they want to transfer their child to a different school, they do have to provide their own transportation if their child does transfer.

Students who are already enrolled in the program are not required to reapply every year. They only have to reapply when advancing from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school. Those students are given priority in the school choice lottery during the reapplication process.

For more information about the school choice application and to see a list of eligible schools, please visit the 2018-19 School Choice webpage: http://www.cobbk12.org/generalinfo/transfers/schoolchoice.aspx.

 

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Cobb schools safety preparations to include unannounced ‘code red’ drills

Chris Ragsdale, Cobb schools superintendent
Chris Ragsdale, Cobb schools superintendent

The day after a mass shooting at a south Florida high school left at least 17 people dead, Cobb County School District superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the district would be re-evaluating safety protocols and continue plans to better prepare staff and students to respond to emergency situations.

At a Cobb Board of Education work session Thursday, Ragsdale updated board members on those efforts, including what he said would be unannounced code red drills to boost preparedness. He said those drills would be “absolutely uncomfortable” for people at the schools that are selected.

Those drills would serve as preparation for the most severe level of emergencies, including active shooter situations.

“Our student and staff safety is our top priority,” Ragsdale said during the lengthy discussion, which was not initially on the board’s agenda. The topic was added after he received e-mails from parents and students in wake of the Florida tragedy, the third-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Yesterday a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County walked into the building and began shooting with an AR-15 rifle.

The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was taken into custody, and at least 14 other people are hospitalized. Some of the dead include teachers and coaches who shielded students from the gunfire.

Ragsdale said all of Cobb’s 112 schools are required to have at least one code red drill per semester. Principals underwent further training in safety protocols in January.

Ragsdale also said all classroom doors in school buildings are marked from the outside for first responders, and current Cobb Ed-SPLOST V funding has been earmarked to continue efforts to improve access control measures at elementary and middle schools.

“The message to our parents, students, staff, and community is that we are not just saying that safety is our top priority, we mean it,” Ragsdale said.

He later acknowledged that “there’s no way to put parents completely at ease.”

During the presentation, which included questions from board members, Ragsdale showed a video detailing an enhanced security alert system called AlertPoint, which is being demonstrated at two schools this year, including Bells Ferry Elementary School.

That system allows teachers and staff to trigger an alert for emergencies, similar to fire alarms.

Ragsdale said high schools pose the most challenging safety issues because they have multiple points of entry. Several Cobb high schools have “buzz in” requirements, already in place in elementary and middle schools but he did not identify those high schools.

After schools have code red drills, the district’s public safety department conducts an evaluation to provide feedback. Another new “suspicious persons” measure would have plain-clothes staffers from the Cobb schools police department enter a school and see how far they can go before being noticed.

Ragsdale said Cobb schools “are doing more” than any other school district in the state to improve safety.

While it’s “impossible” to completely prevent someone from coming in a school with an attack in mind, he said that “what we have to be able to answer is: Do we have in place all the options that we can possibly have to ensure the safety and security of our staff and students?”

 

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East Cobb restaurant scores: Black Swan Tavern; California Pizza Kitchen; Ted’s Montana Grill; and more

Black Swan Tavern, East Cobb restaurant scores

The following East Cobb restaurant scores from Jan. 13-Feb. 13 have been compiled by the Cobb & Douglas Department of Public Health. Click the link under each listing to view details of the inspection:

A Tasty Touch 
2111 Lower Roswell Road
February 7, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Baldinos Giant Jersey Subs 
80 Powers Ferry Road, Suite 103
February 1, 2018 Score: 85, Grade: B

Basil Wraps 
2800 Canton Road, Suite 1220-J
February 8, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Black Swan Tavern 
1401 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 128
January 19, 2018 Score: 87, Grade: B

Blue Moon Pizza 
2359 Windy Hill Road, Suite 100
January 23, 2018 Score: 98, Grade: A

California Pizza Kitchen 
4250 Road, Suite 620
February 6, 2018 Score: 97, Grade: A

Captain D’s
2811 Canton Road
February 12, 2018 Score: 80, Grade: B

Carol’s Cafe 
2543 Bells Ferry Road, Suite 50
January 24, 2018 Score: 89, Grade: B

Coldstone Creamery 
640 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 110
January 24, 2018 Score: 85, Grade: B

Cremefina Ice Cream Parlour 
4796 Canton Road, Suite 200
January 23, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Dunkin Donuts 
980 East Piedmont Road
January 22, 2018 Score: 89, Grade: B

East Valley Elementary School 
2570 Lower Roswell Road
February 12, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Eastside Baptist Church School 
2450 Lower Roswell Road
February 8, 2018 Score: 94, Grade: A

Faith Lutheran Church & School 
2111 Lower Roswell Road
February 7, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Harry’s Pizza & Subs 
2150 Powers Ferry Road, Suite C
February 6, 2018 Score: 92, Grade: A

Hoboken Bread & Bagel Company 
1033 Sandy Plains Road, Suite G
January 24, 2018 Score: 99, Grade: A

House of Ming 
3101 Roswell Road, Suite 116
January 30, 2018 Score: 84, Grade: B

Jamba Juice 
4101 Roswell Road, Suite 304
January 22, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Jimmy John’s 
1337 Powers Ferry Road
February 13, 2018 Score: 94, Grade: A

Johnny’s New York Style Pizza 
4880 Lower Roswell Road, Suite 155
January 31, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Krystal 
2929 Canton Road
February 13, 2018 Score: 95, Grade: A

La Fiesta Grande 
1199 Bells Ferry Road
January 25, 2018 Score: 84, Grade: B

Los Bravos Mexican Restaurant 
1360 Powers Ferry Road, Suite B-140
February 13, 2018 Score: 83, Grade: B

Mr. Wok 
1750 Bells Ferry Road, Suite B
January 29, 2018 Score: 80, Grade: B

Olde Towne Athletic Club
4950 Olde Towne Parkway
January 24, 2018 Score: 99, Grade: A

Papa John’s Pizza 
1325 Powers Ferry Road
February 13, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Papa John’s Pizza 
3165 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite B
January 25, 2018 Score: 93, Grade: A

Pizza Hut 
2520 East Piedmont Road, Suite 124
January 26, 2018 Score: 93, Grade: A

Pizza Hut 
1100 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 225
January 23, 2018 Score: 96, Grade: A

Powerfuel Juice, Java & Smoothie Bar 
4400 Roswell Road, Suite 126
January 31, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Ray’s Donuts 
4805 Canton Road, Suite 400
February 13, 2018 Score: 96, Grade: A

Real NY Pizza Italian Restaurant
1482 Roswell Road
February 12, 2018 Score: 93, Grade: A

Rose & Crown Tavern 
1931 Powers Ferry Road
February 13, 2018 Score: 82, Grade: B

Sabor do Brazil 
2800 Delk Road, Suite E
February 2, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Scooter’s Coffee 
2943 Canton Road
January 22, 2018 Score: 96, Grade: A

Sedalia Park Elementary School 
2230 Lower Roswell Road
February 8, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Smoothie King
2525 Shallowford Road, Suite 600
January 23, 2018 Score: 92, Grade: A

Sope Creek Elementary School 
3320 Paper Mill Road
February 12, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Subway
1177 Bells Ferry Road
January 25, 2018 Score: 86, Grade: B

Ted’s Montana Grill 
640 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 150
January 25, 2018 Score: 95, Grade: A

Thai Taste 
4796 Canton Road, Suite 600-700
February 13, 2018 Score: 96, Grade: A

Timber Ridge Elementary School 
5000 Timber Ridge Road
February 13, 2018 Score: 100, Grade: A

Waffle House 
2720 Sandy Plains Road
February 2, 2018 Score: 81, Grade: B

Wildwood Cafe @ 3200 
3200 Windy Hill Road, Suite 150
February 12, 2018 Score: 91, Grade: A

Wing City 
1750 Bells Ferry Road, Suite E
January 29, 2018 Score: 96, Grade: A

The Wing Factory 
1475 Terrell Mill Road, Suite 106
February 9, 2018 Score: 73, Grade: C

 

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Cobb schools teacher contracts sent out for 2018-19 year

The Cobb County School District said Tuesday that nearly half of the 8,000 teacher contracts sent out last week for the 2018-19 academic year were signed the very first day.Cobb schools open on Friday

The district sent out out a release today saying that around 4,000 contracts distributed on Friday had been signed that day.

The decision to send out contract offers a little earlier than usual compared to last year was to reward teachers and get a head start on hiring decisions that need to be made.

Last year was the first in which Cobb schools sent out contracts electronically. Deputy superintendent John Adams said the district also saves around $40,000 in time, printing and distribution costs by making offers this way.

 

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East Cobb residents speak out on proposed Cobb library closings

The new Sewell Mill Library would be a 20-minute drive for a resident who lives close to the East Cobb Library that’s proposed for closure. (East Cobb News file photo)

Tuesday morning was the first opportunity for the public to formally comment on proposed Cobb library closings before the county board of commissioners.

Several East Cobb residents appeared during a general comment session at the board’s business meeting, and some indicated they would support a millage rate increase to keep open the East Cobb Library and other branches recommended for closure by the county library system.

Nearly $3 million in proposed cuts—a quarter of the Cobb County Public Library System budget—were made public last week, and they include closing or consolidating eight of the 17 branches.

“Nobody wants their taxes raised,” said East Cobb resident Peggy Williams, but she added that “most people in this fairly affluent county could afford to pay more taxes.”

Donald Kay of the Hampton Woods neighborhood, who supports a millage rate increase, said the East Cobb Library, located just a few minutes away from his home, “is a font of the community. It’s full of people all the time. It’s a real resource to the community.”

He said that if the East Cobb Library closed, traveling to the new Sewell Mill Library several miles away on Lower Roswell Road would be a 20-minute drive.

Matt Little of East Cobb, who took off work to speak Tuesday morning, said he “could not fathom our local library closing.”

His children have grown up spending plenty of time at the East Cobb Library, as well as playing in the East Side Baseball program at Fullers Park. Little said that the summer reading program at the library is vital, as is the branch’s role as a hub in “a very close community.”

Charles McCrary of East Cobb said that he thinks that a millage rate increase alone isn’t going to solve the county’s budget issues, but “libraries mean more than you might think.

“The way the community comes together in a library is badly needed in today’s polarized society, where people can exchange ideas and have an environment [in which] to do it,” he said.

Marietta resident Peggy Poole noted the library system’s new program that enables Cobb public school students to use their student IDs as library cards, making them “a whole new group of library patrons.”

She said that several rounds of Cobb library cuts begun in 2008, starting with the recession, have taken a toll, and asked commissioners “what is the cost?” of more.

“Please don’t close our libraries,” she said.

Commission chairman Mike Boyce said what’s on the table now is only a proposal, but he wanted “to put it out there early,” five months before the fiscal year 2019 budget is adopted.

He said while it will be a “tough budget, we’ll get there because of more public input early in the process.”

East Cobb commissioner Bob Ott has opposed closing the East Cobb Library but has been in favor of consolidating what he calls “underperforming” libraries. On March 5 he will hold a town hall meeting at the new Sewell Mill Library.

 

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East Cobb Biz Notes: New RaceTrac location on Roswell Road breaks ground; Gigi’s Cupcakes closes

Carwash USA, East Cobb biz notes

A couple of weeks ago demolition crews began knocking down what had been a Carwash USA location at Roswell Road and Old Canton Road (3103 Roswell Road).

The car wash closed there in December after 14 years, and the owners indicated the business would reopen “nearby” in 2018, although they did not specify a new location.

Carwash USA, East Cobb biz notes

One of East Cobb’s biggest bottleneck intersections has become competitive ground for a glorified gas station battle.

A nearly 5,000-square-foot RaceTrac is going up at the site, which initially was a gas station, and it’s on a catty-corner from a newly renovated and expanded Quick Trip.

This RaceTrac will include a convenience store, free Wi-Fi, frozen yogurt and a coffee selection.

When we drove by earlier today, construction crews were digging deep into the Olde Mill Shopping Center outparcel. A news report last March indicated that the new RaceTrac will open in the third quarter of this year, but it looks to be sooner than that.

RaceTrac, which is headquartered in Cobb at the Galleria, also has an East Cobb location at 2337 Canton Road.

Gigi’s Cupcakes closesGigi's Cupcakes Marietta

The Gigi’s Cupcakes location at Merchants Walk (1281 Johnson Ferry Road) closed on Jan. 31, but the announcement didn’t come until today, two days before Valentine’s Day. A message posted on the store’s Facebook page said “we will miss being a part of your lives.”

Gigi’s opened in East Cobb in early 2011. A Kennesaw location, the only other Gigi’s store in Cobb, also closed the same day.

On the move

Palm Beach Tan has relocated from Market Plaza (1275 Johnson Ferry Road, adjacent to Zeal’s) to The Avenue (4475 Roswell Road). It’s located in Suite 1420, between the Barre 3 studio and Springfree Trampoline.

That’s the same location formerly occupied by Solar Dimensions, which was purchased by Palm Beach Tan in January.

 

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Ott to hold town hall meeting March 5 at Sewell Mill Library

Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott announced over the weekend he’s holding a town hall meeting March 5 at the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center (2051 Lower Roswell Road).

The meeting lasts from 7-8:30 p.m. Bob Ott, Cobb 2018 budget adoption, Ott town hall meeting

While the format is general in nature—he typically briefs constituents on county issues, and then fields questions from the audience—the upcoming budget process figures to be a major topic.

In particular, proposed library cuts are likely to be a high-interest subject. Ott’s last town hall meeting in August, at the East Cobb Library, came just as his fellow East Cobb commissioner, JoAnn Birrell, proposed shuttering that branch.

The East Cobb Library is on the list of proposed closures for the coming fiscal year 2019 budget, which is slated for adoption in July.

Commission chairman Mike Boyce has said he wants to hold town hall meetings related to the budget in the spring, but hasn’t announced any dates.

 

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The unwelcome return of Cobb library politics

East Cobb Library
In the wake of steep budget cut proposals, Cobb library branches have set up tables for patrons to have their say, and contact their county commissioners. (East Cobb News photo by Wendy Parker)

I went to the East Cobb Library Saturday, and it was PACKED! With people of all ages, and from all walks of life. Yes, the weather was dreary, and yes, the few weekend hours it’s open certainly had a lot to do with the turnout.

We all know this, given how the East Cobb branch is the second-busiest in the Cobb County Public Library System. I read a few newspapers and magazines, browsed the bookshelves and did some research for this piece.

At times I wondered if all this might go away in a few months, this corner of the Parkaire Landing Shopping Center, given how the East Cobb Library is on a list of proposed closures.

I was afraid of getting too sentimental, since I grew up in East Cobb (and have written previously about my neighborhood branch, the late, great East Marietta Library).

I’ll admit I’m a bleeding heart for libraries, and this week some really bad emotions came flooding back when I saw not just the East Cobb branch on the hit list (as was suggested last year by commissioner JoAnn Birrell), and several others. Nearly half of all the county branches. A quarter of the operating budget may be slashed, and nearly half of the current operating hours.

For the second time in seven years, local elected officials are playing Cobb library politics, and this time I fear the results could be worse. In 2011, then-commission chairman Tim Lee threatened to shut down 13 of the 17 branches.

The county was in the midst of a budget crisis due to the recession, and his ploy worked. No branches were closed, but hours were cut back. Library patrons kicked up a fuss, and property taxes were raised.

As a citizen, I took a dim view of Lee’s tactics. Those of us who ardently support libraries were played, like a cheap fiddle, even though none of our branches were closed. We felt we had won a battle, but looking back, there was a larger war over our emotions that we may have conceded, and possibly for good.

As a ballyard sage famously put it, it’s déjà vu all over again. Lee’s successor, Mike Boyce, has learned very quickly in his first year in office that nobody wants their property taxes raised. He couldn’t get a 0.13-mills rate increase last year to fully fund the 2008 parks bond referendum that was part of his campaign.

For the last month or so, he’s been toting budget boards to speaking events around the county, with pie charts and lists and all kinds of dollar signs, illustrating a projected fiscal year 2019 deficit of at least $30 million.

Mike Boyce, Cobb budget
Cobb commission chairman Mike Boyce at an East Cobb Business Association luncheon in January.

It’s likely to be much higher, and he’s trying to get ahead of the process by repeating this message months ahead of time, preparing Cobb citizens for the worst, what he’s called “the painful truth.” Others think he’s pandering to their emotions to get a tax increase.

At a town hall meeting last month at the East Cobb Senior Center, he told seniors angry about fee increases and the imposition of a membership fee that “we’re all in this together.” Some of them groaned, but he understood the power they wield.

“You all vote,” he said. On the other hand, library patrons “may not all be voters, but if you close their libraries, they will become voters.”

There were some chuckles around the room. This was just a few weeks after the commissioners held their budget retreat, and instructed department heads to look for steep budget cuts.

This week, the library list was the first to be revealed, and nobody is laughing. These proposed cuts have stirred the emotions of library advocates, right on cue. Tuesday’s commissioners meeting will include a public comment session that figures to be the first of many occasions in which they will get an earful from citizens about libraries.

This round of Cobb library politics is complicated by two other major factors that weren’t there in 2011: the Atlanta Braves stadium, and a property tax rollback two years ago.

Boyce and East Cobb commissioner Bob Ott have been making a point recently that the $8.6 million Cobb pays annually for the bond issue to build SunTrust Park may pay off for itself this year.

However, that vote—made in haste in late 2013 following a sham of a process that lacked transparency and accountability—reflects what many, myself included, still believe to be misplaced priorities.

Ott and Birrell, East Cobb’s other commissioner, voted for the millage rollback in 2016 at the behest of Lee, right before Boyce trounced him in a runoff. Those decisions cannot be undone, but they certainly have contributed to Cobb’s financial state today.

Sewell Mill Library
The Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center opened in December, two months before drastic budget cuts were proposed by the library system.

We starve libraries in Cobb, and have for years. It’s ridiculous that I can’t go to my new neighborhood branch, the fantastic Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center, before 1 p.m. on a Saturday.

Never on a Sunday is any Cobb library branch open, except the main Switzer branch, but that’s only during the school year.

Braves stadium funding, by the way, is on the “must” list. That item, with a 30-year contract, moved to the head of the line of priorities. Libraries, must settle, as usual, for scraps, if there are any at all to have.

The public library system has a short history in Cobb. Until 1957, libraries were operated only in cities, by municipal governments in Marietta, Powder Springs and Austell. Then the Cobb-Marietta system was born, prodded by Dennis Kemp, a former library board chairman from West Cobb concerned that there were no library services for citizens in unincorporated Cobb.

The county would soon rapidly transform from farmland to suburbia. The first countywide library bond issue was in 1965, and the library system became part of Cobb County government in the 1970s.

I discovered this information in a book about the history of Cobb County by Thomas Allan Scott, a historian at Kennesaw State University. It was published in 2003 by the Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, and it’s available in every Cobb library branch.

I may not have known this without spending a lot of time in library branches here in East Cobb. Sure, you can buy that book on Amazon, and do a lot of things online, and on your phone, that libraries still haven’t quite grasped. A book I checked out Saturday at the East Cobb Library, “BiblioTech,” argues eloquently that libraries are as vital today as ever, but they need to get their digital act together.

It’s hard to do that if you don’t have the resources, and political support when it matters the most. Sadly, libraries pop up on the Cobb political radar only when they’re threatened.

The forward-thinking Sewell Mill branch was approved via SPLOST and partially funded by the state. Weeks before opening, commissioners acted in seat-of-the-pants fashion to fund new staff positions that were known about for months.

On the list of proposed library closures revealed this week is the Kemp Memorial Library, named after Dennis Kemp. Another is the Sibley library on South Cobb Drive, named after Frances Weldon Sibley, the first licensed librarian in Cobb County, who started her 30-year-plus tenure in that role in the 1930s.

They were visionaries, well ahead of their time, who believed in the common good of libraries long before they became the third-rail political issue of today.

Whatever you think about tax increases, and the SPLOST process, it’s a shame their names could vanish into history, as well as the East Cobb Library, because elected officials might end up doing more this year than simply playing to your emotions. And mine.

 

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