The Marietta City Council on Wednesday took the first step toward asking voters to consider a $35 million bond for the redevelopment of Franklin Road and other locations by hiring a financial consultant and bond counsel.
The City Council voted 7-0 to hire Dianne McNabb of PFM Group as its financial consultant for a fee of $35,000 and Teresa Finister of Murray, Barnes, Finister as bond and disclosure counsel for a fee of $80,000.
The fees are contingent on the bond passing.
City Manager Bill Bruton said the council has until August to make the final vote on whether to put the bond before voters in November. The council’s vote allows the city’s staff to begin preparing the paperwork on the terms of the proposed bond.
Mayor Steve Tumlin so far has spoken in general terms about how he’d like to see the funds spent, such as buying up dilapidated apartment complexes along Franklin Road and razing them so the city can sell the property to commercial developers. Tumlin has also spoken about using some of the money to build a road connecting Franklin Road with Barclay Circle off Cobb Parkway to help the two universities located in that area, Life University and Southern Polytechnic State University. Other ideas he’s suggested include improving Whitlock Avenue, buying some empty strip malls and turning the vacant Lemon Street School, where Marietta’s black students were required to attend prior to integration, into a museum to honor their history.
More details will be provided at the council’s next series of committees meetings on May 1 during which the city staff will present various options on how the money can be spent.
“That’s where the staff is going to say right now if we had a check book this is probably what we could buy and this would be a good reason why to buy,” Tumlin said.
Tumlin anticipates having an itemized project list within the next two months.
Since suggesting the urban redevelopment bond last month, Tumlin said he’s received overwhelming support for the idea.
“I’m hearing extraordinary support,” he said. “We’re a community that’s had a SPLOST since 1994 multiple times; we approved a parks bond in the worst economy in years and the school got an auditorium,” he said. “We have a community that is willing to invest in itself, but we have to give them what they want.”
Located between I-75 and Cobb Parkway, Franklin Road has the potential to be a successful commercial corridor once many of the blighted apartments are removed, Tumlin said.
“If we put money in this project, the Cumberland CID and the Town Center CID will look at us differently than ‘that’s an area to stay away from,’” he said. “If we put money into it who’s to say the Galleria area doesn’t come up?”
In addition to hiring the financial consultant and attorney, the council took two other votes related to the bond project. Both votes, which were 6-0-1 with Philip Goldstein abstaining, are the beginning steps a municipality takes to using the benefits of the urban redevelopment law for a redevelopment bond. Goldstein, who represents part of the Franklin Road area, said he needed more information.
“There is a lack of information and details, and it was not necessary to take this action this early,” Goldstein said. “We still had time. We could have done this later after we get the information as opposed to before we get the information.”