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Forest Park OKs authority for high-speed rail

The Forest Park City Council adopted a resolution supporting the formation of an authority to operate a planned high-speed rail between Macon and the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Officials from Macon-Bibb County, Monroe, Butts, Henry and Clayton counties met Tuesday in Atlanta to get more information on the project. The high-speed rail is slated to be built alongside I-75 to the east but there is no set timeline.

Forest Park City Manager John Parker said the preliminary meetings are important.

“This will at least get some folks thinking about it,” he said. “Whether it ever comes to fruition, we have no way of knowing right now.”

The electric trains can travel up to 140 mph so they require new rails to be constructed. Parker said the project is being financed through the private sector, not taxpayers.

There are several advantages to forming a transit authority.

“For one, it takes the eminent domain burden off local governments and puts it on the authority,” said Parker. “It takes the politics out of the equation. Also, it allows them to borrow money in several different ways like bonds or a regular loan. The burden is on the authority itself, where the burden ought to be.”

The project calls for at least one stop in each of the counties through which the train will travel. Forest Park is slated for a Clayton County station. However, the focus of the train will be non-stop service from Macon to the Atlanta airport, projected to take about 30 minutes.

In other action during Monday night’s regular meeting:

  • Council approved providing $10,000 to cover added costs to be incurred in the Computer Equipment Maintenance Account for the Finance Department. Parker said the funds are needed to cover a maintenance contract for the new accounting system and upgrades needed for computer stations and servers.

  • Council approved $100,000 in additional legal fees to cover the work involved in the acquisition of Fort Gillem by the city. Parker said the acquisition project is taking a lot more time than anticipated.

  • Council approved the transfer of $160,000 from the General Fund for additional costs associated with the city’s roll-off container expenses. Parker said the roll-off business within the sanitation department has expanded mainly because of commercial expansion at Clorox and several other large companies in the Lake Mirror area. However, Parker anticipates the increased business to bring in $190,000, giving the city a profit of $30,000.

  • Council approved the addition of $80,000 to cover rising fuel costs. “If the prices hang above $4 a gallon, we may be back before you to ask for more money,” said Parker.

  • Council approved the transfer of $15,000 from the street maintenance budget line item to the schools and seminar line item for the purpose of asbestos training and physicals. Parker said seven public works employees will be giving physicals and trained in the demolition of buildings that could contain asbestos.

  • Council approved the declaration of certain city property as surplus so it can be sold.