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Week in review for June 30

By Arlinda Smith Broady - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



Statewide

As lottery turns 20, demand ratchets up

The Georgia Lottery has generated tens of billions of dollars in ticket sales and is now one of the top-ranked lotteries in the world.

After prize money and operating expenses are subtracted, it drives more than $900 million annually into state coffers toward premier education programs. Almost 3 million students over the years have benefited from the pre-k program, the HOPE Scholarship for college students, or both.

The lottery faces continuing scrutiny about how it fulfills its mission and pressure to keep its games fresh.

Metro Atlanta

Toll road bids exceed estimates

Bids for the state’s first new toll road in two decades have come in, but they are millions of dollars higher than originally expected and may raise questions about the costs of other projects.

Though more than $150 million is budgeted in the regional plan for toll lanes alongside I-75 in Henry County, the lowest bidder is asking for $26 million more than that.

A much larger project is also in procurement — the Northwest Corridor toll project alongside I-75/I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties, which has been estimated at up to $1 billion. State officials have scraped and trimmed to get the project down to an affordable price. An increase of 10 percent to 20 percent — like those bids for Henry County project — would be severe.

Atlanta

Tech athletics spending outweighs revenue

Lower-than-expected ticket sales in football and men’s basketball, along with heavy expenses involved in the football team’s trips to the ACC Championship game and the Sun Bowl, will leave Georgia Tech’s athletic department with a net loss of $1.8 million for the fiscal year that ends today.

The losses will be covered by the department’s fund-balance account.

Associate Athletic Director and Chief Financial Officer Frank Hardymon said the department could have covered the loss with a draw off the endowment, which grew by about $6.6 million to $96.5 million, but chose not to do so in order to preserve its long-term financial health.

Cobb County

Common Core debate delays textbook purchase

Opponents of Common Core, standards that specify math and literature concepts students should learn by certain grades, have pressured Cobb school officials to reject textbooks, citing federal government involvement and the “dumbing down” of curriculum.

Georgia and 44 other states have adopted the standards, which are not mandated by the U.S. Department of Education, but which are supported by the Obama administration.

In a school board meeting earlier this month, several members stood firm on their stance against buying the books. Other board members and a vocal group of teachers say that opposition to Common Core has “politicized” math and that without the books the district’s already lagging math test scores will continue to suffer.

Mental health court gets first cases

Cobb’s new Mental Health Court is underway. Seven participants have joined the program since its launch in May, and several more are in the process of being approved. The two-year program aims to treat nonviolent offenders with documented mental health issues in order to prevent them from committing another crime.

The concept of mental health courts has been embraced across Georgia, where about 20 are in operation. But in Cobb, one of the state’s largest counties, the program has already faced roadblocks and its funding future is still uncertain.

About a third of the jail’s inmates are being medicated for mental health issues.

DeKalb County

Despite tax revenue, strip clubs unwelcome

Brookhaven voted in May to toughen its adult entertainment ordinance by banning alcohol at nude dancing establishments. Similar to Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Doraville, it also has limited where such businesses will be allowed to go.

The dancing has gone on, though, as clubs in every city have fought back in court. It also will continue at the Pink Pony, the only strip club in Brookhaven. The 22-year-old club has sued in DeKalb County Superior Court to stop the city’s law from taking effect.

The club had been paying DeKalb County $455,000 in licensing every year. Concern over losing those jobs was a factor in the Atlanta City Council’s recent rejection of a proposal to boot seven adult businesses from Cheshire Bridge Road.

County chooses new animal shelter site

DeKalb decided Tuesday it will build a new shelter next to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. The 5-acre site in Chamblee had been the preferred location for an advisory board guiding the county’s efforts to improve how it handles stray and unwanted pets.

Gwinnett County

GGC leader prepares to move on

When Daniel Kaufman arrived on the Lawrenceville campus of Georgia’s newest public college in 2005, he was the first employee. The school didn’t have a name, let alone any faculty or students. Now, eight years later, Kaufman is stepping down as president of Georgia Gwinnett College. The school he helped build has grown to nearly 9,400 students taking classes in 12 different degree programs.

On Monday he becomes president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, an opportunity he said he couldn’t pass up because it was a chance to have a larger impact on the entire community and build on the access and opportunities the college already offers.

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