0

Clayton County BOC District 4 candidates face questions about Southern Regional, Tara Boulevard

Mass transit in Clayton County also addressed

Michael Edmondson

Michael Edmondson

photo

Larry Bussey

JONESBORO — Candidates in Clayton County commission District 4 were asked questions about ongoing issues facing their district and the county as a whole. The topics included Southern Regional Medical Center’s financial situation, mass transit and quality of life and code enforcement along Tara Boulevard.

Here are the candidates in their own words:

MICHAEL EDMONDSON

Incumbent District 4 Commissioner

There have been questions recently about long-term financial issues involving Southern Regional Medical Center and an announcement was made that indicates the commissioners will get to appoint people to some seats on the hospital’s board of directors if the proposed 2015 SPLOST passes. If the SPLOST passes, what controls would you push to see enacted to ensure the hospital assistance will get it on a solid financial footing for the long term future?

“At the end of the day, the question is simple. We want a hospital or we don’t. If Clayton County desires a hospital within our community, then we have no choice. Broad indigent care obligations and shortfalls of federal and state policies necessitate us to financially support our hospital or else we won’t have a hospital. Possible future federal reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, continued federal sequester and the state’s decision to opt out of locally managed Affordable Care Act medical exchanges are beyond our control. These and the significant amount of indigent care for our citizens determine the long term fiscal sustainability of virtually every metropolitan hospital with similar demographics. That being said, I support the pending transaction as proposed in 2015 SPLOST to include 25-percent permanent county participation on the health system’s board and two members on its executive committee. Additionally, the county will own the facilities, leasing them back to the hospital authority and Southern Regional Health Systems. Ownership of the facilities means that future facilities-collateralized debt, such as bonds, would require county approval. This allows the county to have a say in how the hospital is managed as well as influence over its future finances and cost reductions.”

What is your stance on the issue of reviving public transit in the county and why is that stance? Part of that question, if you are in favor of bring transit back, is what would you like a transit system to look like (such as join MARTA or start up a free standing system, buses only or buses and rail, etc).

“Public transportation provides many benefits to a community. These include transportation to and from jobs. It is better for the environment and addresses congested traffic. It connects us to the surrounding region. However, public transportation systems are not self-sufficient. They do not pay for themselves. Public transportation systems throughout the nation require financial support. Clayton County has two predominant funding sources: property taxes and sales taxes. Sales taxes are considered more equitable and broad based. A significant portion of sales taxes are collected from people who do not even live in Clayton County. MARTA is the most efficient option for using sales tax to fund a transit system. I am in favor of allowing the voters to decide. If the community wants a public transportation system, then I believe a sales tax funded system is best. I do not support raising property taxes.

“The county is currently conducting a feasibility study and collecting public input on the issue and results are expected well before the November ballot question to join MARTA. Part of this study is to determine consensus on the type of public transportation system we may have. That being said, we have to crawl before we walk. I would love a rail system through Clayton County! An incremental increase in sales taxes would fund the operations of a bus system, but not the operations of a commuter rail system. We must remember that we do not have rails. Norfolk Southern owns the railroad and they use it for freight. We would have to lease capacity from the railroad, and then find funding for safety improvements to numerous railroad crossings. Ultimately, a regional mechanism is necessary to fund the operations. MARTA could act as a regional authority to fund operations of a future rail system, but we first have to join MARTA.”

There has been a resident who has frequently brought concerns about code enforcement on Tara Boulevard to the commission. Since the east side of Tara Boulevard (in Jonesboro and Lovejoy) is in District 4, what would you do, if elected, to address quality of life and code enforcement issues along that roadway?

“County ordinances relevant to Tara Boulevard include building codes and property maintenance. Property maintenance is enforced by the Code Enforcement division of the Clayton County Police Department. It was not always that way. When I initially took office in 2007, I supported a restructuring of Code Enforcement from Community Development Department into a division of our Police Department. Code Enforcement is charged with maintaining property and vacant structures, nuisance and abatement thereof. In the past seven years, despite a recession, I supported the county’s commitment to triple the number of Code Enforcement officers, but we still have more work to do. I am in favor of continued expansion of Code Enforcement.

“Clayton County re-wrote is building codes, comprehensively rezoning most of the properties along Tara Boulevard and we adopted a zoning overlay district which prohibits various undesirable uses. However, existing business uses are grandfathered in. Regardless of my position on the matter, that is the law. As properties change ownership and change uses, we will redevelop Tara Boulevard, but it takes time to make these changes. Separately, the county’s Community Development Department focuses on enforcing codes based on construction inspections (i.e., building/construction/plumbing/HVAC/electrical permits). Clayton County does have some challenges with Commercial Property Code enforcement. I support a restructuring of codes enforcement into the Police Department to enforce commercial and residential codes. This is currently being considered as a part of the county’s annual budget and departmental realignment.”

LARRY BUSSEY

Age: 65

Occupation: Academic Director of Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies, Brownmackie College

Lived in Clayton County for 20 years.

If the SPLOST passes, what controls would you push to see enacted to ensure the hospital assistance will get it on a solid financial footing for the long term future?

“I would like to see that the commission board have a controlling vote in reference to and how the funds are disburse in agreement with board of director at South Regional hospital to ensure that funds will cover the needs of the facility and continue to provide service to the community. Firstly, I suggest that there be quarterly audits of South Regional. I applaud hospital board in its action to cut cost by eliminating position and staff, but at the same time no negative effect on care.”

What is your stance on the issue of reviving public transit in the county and why is that stance? Part of that question, if you are in favor of bring transit back, is what would you like a transit system to look like (such as join MARTA or start up a free-standing system, buses only or buses and rail, etc).

“I would definitely want public transportation return to Clayton County. Reason being the county resident lost their jobs, seniors were not able to get back and forth to facilities that were vital to their quality of life. The loss of public transit had a major effect on the business in county. In addition there was an increase in crime on pedestrian traffic due to the loss of public transportation. I would like for the county to create its own public transit system thereby creating jobs.”

Since the east side of Tara Boulevard (in Jonesboro and Lovejoy) is in District 4, what would you do, if elected, to address quality of life and code enforcement issues along that roadway?

“If elected I would confer with the Mayors of Jonesboro and Lovejoy to employ additional code enforcement officers to address code enforcement issues along Tara Boulevard. Vacant and dilapidated structures should be torn down to create green space or repaired. Land owners should be forced to properly maintain vacant property.”

ROBBIE MOORE

Age: 45

Occupation: Owner, Moore Insurance Agency

Resident of Clayton County for more than 33 years

If the SPLOST passes, what controls would you push to see enacted to ensure the hospital assistance will get it on a solid financial footing for the long term future?

“Southern Regional Hospital is vitally important to Clayton County. If the SPLOST passes on May 20, I am concerned that the current hospital board and administrator have not presented a plan to ensure the financial future of our hospital without relying on our property tax dollars.

“If elected, I will work continuously for the future of our hospital and the citizens it serves.”

What is your stance on the issue of reviving public transit in the county and why is that stance? Part of that question, if you are in favor of bring transit back, is what would you like a transit system to look like (such as join MARTA or start up a free-standing system, buses only or buses and rail, etc).

“The county is currently in the process of conducting a transportation feasibility study. When completed the commissioners should evaluate the results, explore all options, consider the cost before asking the citizens for a referendum, and examine all issues associated with mass transit. Transportation is vital to our community.”

Since the east side of Tara Boulevard (in Jonesboro and Lovejoy) is in District 4, what would you do, if elected, to address quality of life and code enforcement issues along that roadway?

“The current commissioner has been in office for 8 years and the complaints continue. One of the reason for the appearance of Tara Boulevard is the number of business closings causing a decline in appearance and property value. I will work with code enforcement to insure all codes are being followed but more importantly that we are attracting businesses not closing them.”