DeKalb residents who complained for years that certain neighborhoods, especially in the southern parts of the county, were being neglected now have proof directly from CEO Mike Thurmond.
He told commissioners on Tuesday that 125 roads maintained by the county were only scheduled for mowing once a quarter, and workers skipped over one out of every five on this list. The CEO is now asking for emergency funding to make sure these streets are serviced every six weeks, particularly during warm months when grass grows fastest.
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“People who have been calling me and you and members of the commission, maybe they haven’t been just on another planet,” Thurmond said he told staff in the Public Works Department. “Maybe we weren’t doing what we are obligated to do.”
The problem dates back at least five years, Thurmond said, and is worse in unincorporated areas in south DeKalb. It stems from budget cuts during the economic downturn and reflects a lack of coordination among county staff, he said.
Complacency later set in and people stopped paying attention. “The abnormal became normal,” the CEO said.
Thurmond apologized to residents who have been affected and pledged things will change. The Board of Commissioners is expected to approve next week $75,000 for a contractor to help county workers with mowing some of these 125 streets.
Another 63 roads maintained by the county are already being serviced every six weeks or even once a month.
Commissioner Nancy Jester said she applauded Thurmond for fessing up and working quickly to address the issue. Her colleague Steve Bradshaw said he hoped results would be visible right away, particularly for those who live in neighborhoods he represents.
“I’m looking at the list of roads, and a lot of them look really, really familiar like they are in District 4,” said Bradshaw, who represents parts of east central DeKalb.
Kathryn Rice, who has been unsuccessful in her effort to create the city of Greenhaven in south DeKalb, said she appreciated Thurmond for acknowledging the situation but sees the roads issue as another example of why cityhood is the best course of action. When streets and medians aren’t maintained, it stops neighborhoods from prospering, she said.
“All of this affects economic development,” Rice said. “That is a reason why corporations choose not to come to an area.”