Forest Park creates two public safety jobs

The Forest Park City Council voted last night to make several changes in local ordinances, including creating two public safety jobs and requiring qualifying candidates who have been ousted from office to wait five years before running again.

All the ordinances were accepted unanimously by full council. One of the changes creates a facility maintenance coordinator in the police department and an operations officer in the Emergency Management Services division of the fire department.

City Manager John Parker said the duties for both positions have existed for years but were split among several employees.

"This just consolidates the duties into two specific positions," he said.

Parker said the city has a constant focus on emergency management operations because of its proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and to several interstate highways.

"Forest Park is in a flight pattern and we could have a crash any time," he said. "Then there's the issue with Homeland Security. That's why there is such an interest in emergency services here. And we have the interstates close by, which provide escape routes. We have to constantly stay on top of things."

Parker said the possible issues are important enough to devote one person to managing them.

"We need someone dedicated and working on things daily," he said. "We can be so much better than what we are."

The facility maintenance coordinator will work in the police department. In addition to the building and 125 cars that require care, Parker said there is an increasing number of vacant properties that need to be checked on in the interest of public safety.

"When these places sit empty, they attract burglars, people go in and have parties, maybe build fires, create a nuisance," he said. "This employee will maintain the records of the vacant homes and help the police in routine efforts to keep a check on these places. Vacant properties are always changing so that person will also ensure that the lists are up to date."

Council also voted to amend an ordinance to mimic state law concerning elections, said Parker. The amendment prevents any previous member from qualifying for mayor or a council seat for five years after that person has been involuntarily removed from office.

The motion to adopt the change was made without comment. However, council voted in July to oust Ward 2 Representative Karen-Brandee Williams after a hearing officer found her in violation of 15 ethics codes. The amendment adds the provision to existing qualifications.

In other action, council members adopted an increased millage rate for the new fiscal year, up to 14.743 from 13.343 mills. The unanimous vote was made following the third public hearing on the issue. No one from the public spoke on the increase.

Council also took the first step toward approving the redistricting of wards to reflect the 2010 Census. Council will vote again Sept. 19 and then send the new maps to the U.S. Justice Department for approval. The new ward lines will not affect the November election.