New laws for Forest Park for new year

FOREST PARK — The city of Forest Park will begin the new year with regulations aimed at revitalizing Fort Gillem.

During a recent special called city council meeting, the city council approved creating an Urban Redevelopment Plan, which would allow the city to redevelop blighted or threatened areas — specifically, with Fort Gillem in mind, since it has been recommended for closure as a U.S. Army base.

“At Fort Gillem, unless the city purchases it, it will become a blighted area, once the base is completely abandoned,” city attorney Robert Mack said. “They still have buildings that are dilapidated that need to be torn down. Once we purchase it, we are working to get developers to come in and redevelop the area.”

To smooth the path toward that revitalization, the city will ask Gov. Nathan Deal to designate Fort Gillem as a targeted employment area — a status that will make it easier for investors to earn tax breaks and for foreign investors to achieve U.S. citizenship.

City officials are looking into bringing a gasification plant to Forest Park, Mack said. The plant would create renewable energy by converting solid waste into ethanol and generating electricity that could be used by Georgia Power.

During the special called city council meeting held Dec. 21, the city council voted to allow three council members to operate the city — vote, make laws — without having a mayor or mayor pro tem in place. It also voted to amend the city’s ethics ordinance.

There are additional options the city council now has when dealing with the violations of the ethics law, said Forest Park City Manager John Parker.

“This was brought because the council felt they did not enough latitude to work within the existing ordinance.” Parker said. “Actually it was just a rewrite to address some issues that were not addressed in the previous ordinance.”

The new ethics ordinance provides for tighter restrictions on what constitutes a conflict of interest and streamlines the appeal process, Mack said. It also allows the council to suspend a person who has violated the ethics ordinance.