FOREST PARK — After a hearing that lasted about half an hour, the Forest Park City Council removed four members of the five-member Urban Redevelopment Authority, then transferred that body’s powers to the Downtown Development Authority.
The move comes after the URA turned down the mayor and council’s request to OK $20 million in bonds to cover a new fire station and Starr Park improvements after a request for a new police station was added without detailed plans or estimates. The proposed police station was to have shared space on Forest Parkway already allocated to the fire station, which URA board members said was to have been paid for with an estimated $2.5 million in SPLOST funds. In response, the mayor accused the members of failing to do their sworn duty to help the city and called them before the hearing.
Only two people on the five-member board, Don Wright and Trudy Smith, showed up for the hearing. Former URA chair Frank Brandon, who rescinded his resignation but whose letter Mayor Angelyne Butler refused to accept, did not show up. Neither did Pamela Lake, who had served as chair pro tem in Brandon’s place at the last URA meeting, nor Felicia Davis, who had said she saw “no point” in attending, at the meeting.
City Attorney Mike Williams said the proceedings had been arranged “as a courtesy to Mr. Brandon,” who did not show up. Williams brought out Finance Director Ken Thompson as a witness, asking him whether Brandon had caused payments to be delayed by not showing up to sign off on them and whether the URA had incurred fees as a result. Thompson said he recalled four such invoices in the last 20 months since he was appointed.
Acknowledging that Brandon was not present to speak on his own behalf, Williams said, “It gives me no joy to point out that, in recent years, Mr. Brandon had begun to neglect his duties as chair.”
After a five-minute executive session, the mayor, chief and council returned. The council voted out Smith, Brandon, Lake and Wright in quick succession, then handed the URA’s powers over to the DDA. On each point, Councilman Allan Mears voted no, while the rest of the council voted yes.
“There is a Bible study at Clayton County Detention Center,” Roy Lunsford called from the audience after the meeting had adjourned. “I’ll make sure y’all get to the top of the list.”
Asked when he could expect a new police station, Chief Clark deferred to “the governing body.” Akins-Wells said the next step would be to bring the proposal before the DDA, most likely at a special called meeting to be announced.
Smith said she would appeal her removal through the city and that she is contemplating a defamation suit over the mayor’s letter.