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Beautification program may get new home

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

While the Keep Clayton County Beautiful program will no longer operate county-wide, the county's largest city, Forest Park, may give the program a chance to continue its work at the local level.

In a move to trim the county budget, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted, June 29, to eliminate the program. Since 1981, Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., had been tasked with cleaning up the county's roads and highways, organizing recycling programs, and coordinating the county's annual "Rivers Alive" stream clean-up project.

On Thursday at 6 p.m., the Forest Park City Council will hold a special called meeting to discuss the creation of a Keep Forest Park Beautiful initiative by bringing the county program under its wing. Forest Park City Manager John Parker said the program would be a "scaled-down" version of the county's program, but would utilize the same people to improve the city's aesthetic features.

"We're looking at the possibility of taking that organization," Parker said. "We would not be able to fund it for the whole county." However, he added,"We want to see, if this program can help clean up the trash and debris problem that exists ... We would like to use their expertise to see if we can provide better services to our citizens."

Edie Yongue, director of the county's now-defunct Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., program, said she is excited about the opportunity to work in Forest Park, and believes the program could have "a huge impact" on the city. "There are 10,000 households [in Forest Park] and 40 percent of the 10,000 are under foreclosure," she said. "I don't know that the average citizen in Forest Park knows that, so the folks in public works have been boarding up these houses and cutting the grass on top of their regular duties. Forest Park is the largest city in the county, and at one time, that city was a very thriving community. I think they would like to see that happen again.

"Just like with the county, it's going to take everybody working as a team to accomplish what the City of Forest Park wants to accomplish," Yongue said. "I think we can have a huge impact."

In addition to discussing the continuation of the beautification program, the city council will vote on increasing the rates for commercial garbage pick up within the city limits. Parker said the rate hike would change, depending on the needs of the particular business, but that the average restaurateur, for example, would see the rates rise by approximately 10 percent.

"Commercial fees have not been increased in eight or nine years," Parker said. "The cost goes up every year, and we're at a point when the city cannot continue to absorb the cost. It's [the fee the city charges is] according to what kind of customer they are.

"Restaurants, they might have to have six-or seven-day [a week] services. Other businesses may need two days a week. Some of them have long containers, while others may have nothing more than a trash barrel," said Parker.

"This [the increase] is only being proposed, and the mayor and council have to make that decision," he added. Parker said the decision would not have an impact on the city's residential garbage fees, which are presently $200 a year, per household.