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Public safety training center committee touts accomplishments with no mention of construction secrecy

The latest site plan for the Atlanta public safety training center as presented at an April 26 meeting of the Community Stakeholders Advisory Committee.

By John Ruch

The advisory committee for Atlanta’s controversial public safety training center has issued its first community update after eight months of meetings, an email that touts its accomplishments while not mentioning issues relating to the start of pre-construction and secrecy debates.

Dated June 6 but sent June 9, the email is the first and so far only such communication from the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSAC) since an update subscription service was announced on April 26. The CSAC has been meeting since October and is supervised by the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), the training center’s nonprofit developer.

The email lists several accomplishments, such as the relocation of a main entrance and the establishment of a 100-foot-wide wooded buffer between the facility and neighborhoods. It does not mention the controversial start of site preparations, which the APF has said would be kept secret from the CSAC, despite permits being public records. Controversy about that recently led a DeKalb County commissioner to release the APF’s lengthy land disturbance permit application — an important document withheld from the CSAC.

The email also does not mention that such mitigations could be on the chopping block due to security concerns about large-scale protests against the facility, with APF already warning that a perimeter fence might be erected.

Local residents and DeKalb County officials have expressed confusion and frustration about the site work secrecy, often learning about clearing and bulldozing from citizen complaints. An example came June 10, when a DeKalb inspector briefly placed a stop-work order on the site prep in response to a complaint, according to a county spokesperson, before determining APF had a proper permit. That work involves erecting a temporary fence around the site, another item undiscussed by the CSAC and about which APF has not answered questions.

The CSAC has been plagued with transparency issues, such as an unpublicized meeting and a lack of minutes. The meeting section of the training center website has not been updated since March. Also unmentioned in the email is the CSAC’s legally questionable attempt, launched at its last meeting, to remove a member who has publicly criticized the project’s environmental study.

The thrust of the email appears to be reacting to various transparency controversies with a public relations campaign, as discussed by CSAC members at their May meeting, where “controlling the narrative” and seeking PR help from the City of Atlanta were themes.

The list of accomplishments seems to imply the CSAC deserves credit for some moves that APF and the Atlanta Police Department already made unilaterally, in some cases without the committee’s prior knowledge, such as a plan to relocate an existing police explosives disposal facility.

In terms of future work, the email refers to CSAC subcommittees about public green space and some type of educational programs involving the facility and “local schools and youth groups.” Those subcommittees have been mentioned from time to time in CSAC meetings, but they appear to have been established in behind-the-scenes conversations. While meetings of such subcommittees would be subject to the Georgia Open Meetings Act, none have been announced and the CSAC and APF have not responded to SaportaReport questions about them.

The email does not give any meeting dates or locations for those subcommittees, or even for the CSAC itself, which next meets on June 21 at 6 p.m.

The $90 million facility, which would train police officers and firefighters from Atlanta and outside departments, is planned for 85 acres of the former Atlanta Prison Farm, a piece of property that is owned by the City of Atlanta but sits outside city limits on Key Road in unincorporated DeKalb County. The Atlanta Police Department has used part of the property for decades for a shooting range and explosives disposal, but its selection for the training center and APF process revealed last year surprised neighbors and DeKalb officials, generating controversy. The facility is also opposed by a protest movement known as Defend the Atlanta Forest involving advocates of police reform and environmentalism who have dubbed it “Cop City.”

 

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1 Comment

  1. Uh oh! June 17, 2022 1:13 pm

    The ground lease may be for 85 acres, but the latest design drawings include 77 disturbed acres sprawling over a 294 acre tract, all of which was NOT included in the Phase I site assessment, This effectively occupies more than 60% of the prison farm property, which calls into doubt the future of the greenspace adopted in the Atlanta City Design.Report

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