By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — Forest Park Police Department will provide services for State Farmers Market for the first time in about 25 years.
City Council members voted unanimously Monday to take on the 160-acre wholesale and retail center just off I-75 in Forest Park.
Forest Park police Chief Dwayne Hobbs, who is also interim city manager, said the market police department hasn't always been stable.
"When I started out here 40 years ago, we provided police services," he said. "In the late 80s, they created their own department. That didn't work out so well for them."
However, the market police weren't willing to make a change, he said.
"They were never willing to pull the trigger on proposals from us over the years," said Hobbs.
In fact, Hobbs said his department made five or six proposals over 20 years that were rejected by state officials.
"This year, they got serious about it," he said. "I think we can do this in a way that benefits them and Forest Park."
Hobbs said he will be asking for additional officers, which the state will pay for.
The state will lease the police headquarters at the market to the city for $1 a year on an annual basis.
"We can use the office as a substation," said Hobbs. "They're pretty anxious for this to happen."
The market police department drew negative publicity in 2007 when one of its officers was arrested for killing the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair. Charles Smith admitted his role in the shooting death of trucker Donald Ray Skinner June 9, 2007, and was sentenced to life in prison.
There are at least 126 businesses inside the market, including the popular Oakwood Cafe. The 53-year-old market is open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, closing only for Christmas Day.
The Department of Agriculture is looking at spending about $300,000-$400,000 for improvements and upgrades, with a 40-year plan to easily spend $1 billion for an overhaul of the market.
Matthew Kulinski, deputy director of marketing for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, said the market generates about $7 million in revenue and only needs about half that amount to operate.