Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Someone's Blowing Some Smoke Here in Dunwoody

A decent crowd on hand last night for the council meeting.  A sprinkling of candidates mixed with members of the media and a couple of spectators provided the backdrop to a fairly short meeting.

Mr. Bill Grant started off public comment by warning council not to buy any property without at least two appraisals.  If there is one thing Grant knows, it's real estate.  He has been on several committees in the city.  Mr. Grant said Dunwoody was the only game in town when it comes to buying big chunks of real estate.  I'll write a post next week about real estate.

Next up - ChimneyGate 2011. First, let it be known Big Sis Sandy Springs has the Chimney at Morgan Falls-Overlook Park.  The famous Sandy Springs Chimney was saved after a lengthy, professional archeological research study was conducted. Be careful when visiting the Sandy Springs Parks web site as you'll not find abandoned buildings and areas of passive use, but you will see people out actively enjoying green space.  But don't be jealous of their parks and river; we have the Dunwoody High School retention pond and the Vernon Jones Skate Park.

1839 chimney at Overlook Park in Sandy Springs

First, a little background.  Down on Ashford Dunwoody Road, across from the mall, there stands a very proud chimney.  The chimney is not attached to a log cabin - it is free standing.  It is right near Ravinia.  The 'when' and 'who' and 'why' of this chimney is up for debate.  Is it of historic importance?  Or is it simply a modern era decoration? Depends whom you ask.

Last night during public comment we heard from Mr. T. Chimney.  Mr. T Chimney said the chimney at Ravinia is REAL, and REAL old.  So, who's blowing smoke here?  Mr. T Chimney said he has the smoking gun chimney facts on his side, and does not want the chimney to become a decoration piece for sandal-wearing hippies and Wi-Fi moochers at a proposed Starbucks at Ravinia by Perimeter Mall.  Mr. T Chimney has in his corner the lady from the Crier who writes about old stuff (Valerie, I think), and a couple of people who were born in the basement of the FarmHouse.  They claim the chimney is a real chimney, and was here long before The Cheese Cake Factory, and even before MARTA! The newly formed ChimneyPosse believes the chimney is of times gone by origin.

The fine folks wanting to build a Starbucks at Ravinia say the chimney was built using Lincoln Logs, QuickRete concrete from Home Depot, laborers from the Sandy Springs Northwoods Drive labor pool, and random boulders found on site............ in 1987. Did perhaps the laborers, back in 1987, find an historic chimney on site, then move it to its current location, then fill it with rebar and concrete?  Stay tuned to see who is Blowing Smoke in Dunwoody.

Back to the meeting. The city won an award for its branding campaign.  No further comment.

Proclamation of Red Ribbon Week.  A nice program used to warn kids of the dangers of drugs and booze.  A fine young man was there to join in the announcement.

Next up we had more fireworks regarding the 911 issue.  In about a week your 911 calls will go to ChatComm.  Councilman Ross is still not pleased about this situation.  He makes a good point when he says the contract the city has with ChatComm will not be fulfilled because we (Dunwoody) will not be receiving the same services as Sandy Springs.  At issue here is the fire and ambulance calls.  I've written about this issue several times so use the 'search' feature to your right to look it up.  Councilman Wittenstein rightfully pointed out that there are provisions in the ChatComm contract that may allow for the city to be refunded some money.  We'll see in a week how this all plays out.  I sincerely hope the transition is smooth and no lives are affected by the delay in transferring fire/ambulance calls to a secondary 911 center at DeKalb.  Ross claims a drop in our fire rating may occur, costing the average homeowner $200 (more than the bonds) a year in insurance fees.  Time will tell.

Second read on amending code to allow for a private road to be sub-divided.  This may not be a big issue as some think.  I know why the big push is being made for this, and I want more jobs in Dunwoody.  No way should a sign ordinance keep a company from moving here.  The PCID should have its own sign ordinance.  If elected to council, I will push for a separate sign ordinance for the PCID area, having different guidelines than other areas of the city.  That being said, if the people pushing hard for this change had simply made their private road a public road, an amendment affecting the entire city would not have been needed. Anyway, that client had better move in before the end of the year or the people pushing for this lose credibility with me and hopefully all of the city council and staff.

Award of Contract for City Signage Design.  $39,000 of taxpayer funds to study and implement a way-marking sign system in our city. Overall, look for the city to spend half a million dollars on road paving and sidewalks signs and monuments over the next three years.  No, this was not included in the $100,000 branding campaign.  But hey, maybe we'll win a Savvy Award for best street signs in 2012 - then we'll have even more reason to celebrate.

This use of funds surprisingly passed 6-1, with Robert the lone holdout.  I gave Robert props for noting the ChatComm contract allows for some recourse if ChatComm fails to perform as contracted, so to maintain balance I'll mention that I don't think Robert really wanted to vote No on signs.  Uncharacteristically, Robert made no comments during discussion of this issue tonight.  Those of us who attend council meetings and work sessions know Robert comments on everything.  Tonight, not so.  Robert made no attempt to block the spending of these funds.  The $39,000 issue came up a couple weeks ago at the work session.  Robert then said he would not support the $39,000, but Warren, the city manager, mentioned the cost was under $50,000 and he could execute the contract with or without council consent.  Warren suggest placing the item on the consent agenda, where it would not be discussed.  Mr. Shortal insisted the topic be on the agenda, and it was there at Monday's meeting.  But back at the work session, when Shortal questioned the costs related to this project, Robert said he did not want Warren to be restricted to what items he contracts for, as long as the items are under $50,000.  If Robert was opposed to this use of funds, why not come out and ask Warren not to spend it?  Furthermore, Robert said council should not interfere with how Warren executes contract for under $50,000.  Watch the video here, go to time 1:22:06 through 1:22:42 and listen for yourself. I'm glad Robert voted 'no' on this item, I hope it was a sincere No, and I would have preferred he made somewhat of an attempt to discourage his council partners to vote No. It should be noted Robert did vote to spend $150,000 on this project for 2011. Lots of talk about crosswalks, sidewalks, and road paving form council members, then they continue with a half million dollar signage program for the city.  I don't see this as a high priority, sorry.

Two Appraisals - The city put in some language that requires two appraisals for land purchases going forward. Who said Farmer Bob was losing his touch?


Robert Wittenstein said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I didn't comment on my opposition to spending $39,000 on a design for gateway and way-finding signage because I had done so at the work session two weeks ago. I didn't want to take everyone's time and repeat myself. I think this is a very poor use of tax payer funds. At the end of the $39,000 all we will have is drawings! As you pointed out, to actually construct and install the signage envisioned it will take several years and half a million dollars. I think that is a huge waste, and I'll continue to oppose it.

Site Admin said...

Looks like Ole 5-K is splitting work so it flies under the 50-K radar. What a hero!

Bob Lundsten said...

Mr. Old Chimney Man is full of hot air and smoke.
Incorporating the Chimney into a commercial establishment is in no way degrading (can you degrade a chimney?).
How is this a problem when the symbol, the holy grail of Dunwoody, the FARM HOUSE is a former sandwich shop and now a "wedding facility" operated by a COMMERCIAL entity? Not only is it a commercial operation, but it was updated and altered to accommodate the business.
Please, get over the chimney. It reminds us of our past and will be there in the future. If Old Man Chimney wants to turn it into a pseudo historical landmark, then let him buy it. If the Preservation Trust wants to save it, let them buy it. If the City wants to save it, use some of that park/redevelopment money as historical preservation funds and turn it into a park.
At the end of the day, the Chimney will be there