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Forest Park emphasizes new businesses, students

Recognizing the economic impact of new businesses, Forest Park leaders have agreed to take a more active role in welcoming them to the city.

The City Council also decided to start a program to promote academic excellence in Forest Park elementary, middle and high schools.

Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams suggested sponsoring ribbon-cutting ceremonies when businesses open in the city.

"We have new businesses coming into the city and really don't know about them," said Adams. "We don't have a relationship with them coming in. Planning and Zoning does because they issue permits, but we don't."

City Manager John Parker said there has been an increase in new businesses in Forest Park, which is heavily industrial, with a strong showing of locally owned shops, since the first of the year. The city takes in more than $1 million in revenue annually for business licenses and permits.

Adams said she wants more interaction between city government and business owners. "We need to be welcoming them into the city and letting them know about the Forest Park Business Coalition," she said. "We have some of the largest employers in the county here. We need to introduce ourselves, and maybe have a ribbon-cutting ceremony when a new business opens."

The coalition is a non-profit organization founded by Clayton County business and civic leaders, to provide a networking opportunity for Forest Park businesses. The web site is www.fpbconline.com.

Ward 3 Councilmember Maudie McCord wants the city to officially recognize stellar Forest Park students. That proposal was met with skepticism by Don Judson, representative of Ward 4.

"Good luck with that," he said. "We tried that five years ago and couldn't get cooperation from the schools."

McCord was more optimistic, especially in light of the recent reinstatement of the Clayton County School System’s full accreditation, through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

"Since they got their accreditation back, I think the teachers are working as hard as the students," she said. "It's a new day, and we're going to make it work."

The suggestion got support from Adams. "I like it, I think it's fantastic," she said.

McCord outlined her plans for the Golden Scholar Program, which would promote academic excellence. The program would rely on submissions from schools in Forest Park each semester, and students would have to meet eligibility requirements.

"At the end of the semester, there would be an awards reception where students would receive a certificate, a group photo and a letter of recommendation from the city," she said. "We would also adopt a resolution to recognize them as Golden Scholars. I think this will help students, and give them something to work for, and to achieve goals."

The council also took official action against proposed federal legislation that would allow a large increase in the size, length and/or weight of trucks on the nation’s highways. Councilmembers expressed concern earlier this month about the proposal to increase a tractor trailer truck's permissible maximum weight from 80,000 to 100,000 pounds.

Citing a higher rate of traffic fatalities for heavy trucks, compared to lighter ones, city leaders also pointed out the excessive wear and tear on public roads and bridges from the bigger vehicles.

The resolution states that the City Council "goes on record as opposing, in the strongest possible terms, any legislation that would allow the increase of the maximum weight and size of tractor trailers operating on our public highway system beyond federal standards, so as to protect our public infrastructure and the lives and safety of our citizens."