Photo by Heather Middleton
Plans to expand a Riverdale church were denied Clayton County commissioners Tuesday night, with tempers flaring before, and after, the unanimous vote.
Engineer George Harper told the board the Vietnamese congregation wanted to triple the existing sanctuary to accommodate the growing church body. Pastor Peter Duc Vu said the Valley Hill Road church is home to 850 families, or about 3,500 members.
But the request did not sit well with some residents. Samuel White told the board he has lived near the church for 20 years and opposes expansion. "We don't know what is going on," he said. "We're church-loving people, but we love the community, too. Don't just run over us, come talk to us. But you don't, it just happens, and there you are."
White complained about noisy religious services that last well into the wee hours of the morning. "That's going on Saturday night into 2-2:30 in the morning, and we're trying to sleep, so we can get up for our own church Sunday morning," he said. "We feel violated. If you come into a person's home, you ought to wipe your feet."
After the board voted unanimously against the expansion, Vu, Harper and White continued the debate outside the meeting. White said he served in Vietnam, and tried to empathize with the church, but thinks officials should have met with residents.
"How many of your members even live in that community?" White asked. Only Vu, who lives on the church property, Vu said.
Vu agreed to meet with White and other residents to work out details of the expansion plans. Harper said the church wants to get along with residents.
"We're not in the business of making enemies," Harper said. "We definitely want to be good neighbors."
The church can appeal the board's decision in court, said Kc M. Krzic, Clayton County's zoning administrator. Failing that, the request can be resubmitted after one year.
Sheriff to offer solution to overtime
Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough told Clayton County commissioners Tuesday night he will submit a proposal to the chairman on handling the issue of overtime within his department.
Overtime in the sheriff's office has been an issue of concern on the commission, because the county is potentially facing an $8 million deficit, and officials have said that overtime at the sheriff's office could end up costing $2 million more than was budgeted, if current trends continue.
Kimbrough, however, told the board that overtime figures are in line with the last three years, and that he saw only three options available.
"We can continue on as we're going; we can add staff; or reduce overtime and reduce personnel on the streets and in the jail," he said. "I don't see that as viable, but, if that's what the board wants, I can take it under advisement."
Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph said something has to be done about the added strain on the county's coffers.
"Our revenues are significantly down, and there needs to be a plan to adjust to meet that," he said.
Kimbrough said he didn't have prepared statements, because he was told at 5:45 p.m., to attend the 7 p.m., meeting.
"I have prepared a memo that I will get to the commissioners in the next couple of days," he said.
Bell says he needs trained driver for health reasons
Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell has unspecified health issues that require he use a driver, he told the rest of the board Tuesday night.
Bell told the board he underwent an MRI earlier in the day, and will make necessary changes, depending on his prognosis.
Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph asked that $4,500 budgeted for Bell's county driver be returned to the general fund, because Bell is using a sheriff's deputy instead.
"That driver is not a trained person," Bell said, in reply. "You don't know the extent of my impairment. The doctor told me to limit my driving, and it may be permanent.
"If I don't have the full use of my right arm," he said, "I still consider myself an officer of the court. I work for this county, full-time, seven days a week, and will use people as prescribed my doctor."
Because a deputy is paid $18 an hour, Ralph wanted to know if one is being used out of security, rather than health concerns.
"The county provided a driver for you at a cheaper cost," Ralph said.