Cobb moving ahead with shuttle plans for new Braves stadium
by Jon Gillooly
February 12, 2014 04:00 AM | 6422 views | 3 3 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The view to northwest from Interstate ­75/­Interstate 285 intersection of the proposed Braves stadium.<br>Special to the MDJ/Atlanta Braves
The view to northwest from Interstate ­75/­Interstate 285 intersection of the proposed Braves stadium.
Special to the MDJ/Atlanta Braves
MARIETTA — The county is moving forward with creating a shuttle service to help with traffic in preparation for the new Atlanta Braves stadium expected to open in 2017.

The shuttle, which would operate within the 5.5-square-mile Cumberland Community Improvement District, is projected to cost $900,000 to assemble and about $850,000 in annual operating costs, said Faye DiMassimo, the county’s transportation director.

The county has issued a request for proposals to hire a consulting firm to design the system.

County Chairman Tim Lee hopes to hire the firm in April — with it providing the plan nine to 12 months later — well before the stadium opens.

“The circulator is what we are going to provide as part of the transportation solution for the stadium,” Lee said.

While it’s unclear whether the vehicle will be a trolley, bus or tram, it will use rubber wheels.

“So let’s say you work in one of the office towers and you want to go to the mall to have lunch,” Lee said. “You can just get on the circulator and that will take you and drop you off in front of the food court and pick you up when you get done.”

Lee said the county will pay for the shuttle service by using some of the revenues collected by charging hotels and motels in the Cumberland CID a fee of $3 a room per night. The $3 fee is expected to generate $2.7 million annually.

DiMassimo said the consultant will determine if a fare is charged and what that ticket price would be.

The $900,000 estimate for capital costs would go to purchase vehicles and whatever bus stations are recommended.

“They could be nothing more than a sign. It could be a shelter. It could be a bench,” Lee said.

The closest system in the region is the Buc — Buckhead Uptown Connection — a shuttle service that provides connections between office buildings, transit stops and shopping destinations, DiMassimo said.

There is no fare to ride the Buc, according to its website. It’s paid for by the Buckhead Community Improvement District and with federal tax dollars.

“It’s an alternative to getting in your car and getting around the Cumberland area for times when it might be too far to walk,” Lee said of his proposal.

The Cobb service would be operated by Cobb Community Transit, which already runs 18 bus routes.

CCT has a fiscal 2014 budget of $18 million. Of that sum, 33 percent is paid by passenger fares. The rest comes from federal grants and the county’s general fund.

The county outsources CCT operations to Lombard, Ill.-based Veolia Transportation, paying the firm $13 million annually. The county also employs seven people to run CCT operations.

Commissioners are required to hold a public hearing on proposals where contract fees may exceed $100,000, which is what they did on Tuesday with the Cumberland shuttle-service contract.

Public hearing held for new tax districts

Commissioners also held the first public hearing on a code change that would allow for the nightly $3 Cumberland hotel room fee, as well as the creation of a new tax district that would roughly follow the boundaries of the Cumberland CID. That new district would tax commercial property owners and apartment complex owners an additional 3 mills, bringing in $5.2 million a year to help pay for the stadium.

The county has agreed to pay $300 million of the $672 million cost of the stadium as well as up to $35 million in maintenance expenses.

A third code change that received a hearing is a proposal to enact a county-wide 3 percent rental car tax expected to collect $400,000 annually.

The critics

Retired lawyer Gary Pelphrey of east Cobb was one of the speakers to address commissioners.

Pelphrey is a member of the Citizens for Governmental Transparency, a coalition of groups ranging from conservative Michael Opitz of the Madison Forum to progressive Rich Pellegrino of the Cobb Immigrant Alliance.

Pelphrey described himself as a Braves fan who opposed what he believes is the county’s lack of transparency over the Braves project. Pelphrey said Gov. Deal had declared a state of emergency because of a winter storm hitting north Georgia Tuesday and today.

“It is my belief that anything you decide today, anything you present as a public hearing during the term of the governor’s state of emergency of all governments in the sovereign state of Georgia is null and void,” Pelphrey said.

Larry Savage of east Cobb also spoke, raising questions about the legality of the tax districts.

“You are interpreting it in a way that says that you can go out and selectively identify any geography in the county, any group of people or property owners, and you can assess a tax on them that is completely unlimited, there’s no limit, you can go to however much you want,” Savage said.

Savage believes such action is not the intent of the state Constitution.

“So I am simply requesting that you provide a full outline of how the legal authority flows for the creation of special districts, particularly in regard to the inclusion or non-inclusion of some properties and also the fact that there’s no cap on the ultimate tax,” he said.

County spokesman Robert Quigley said the next public hearing on the tax districts is 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 at which time commissioners will take a vote on creating the districts.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 12, 2014
Please don't forget to (vote) in cobb county's next election.
Just Wait
February 12, 2014
Real shame they are not putting public safety at the top of the list instead of making it convenient for Cumberland office tower workers to eat lunch. Hope they can stay safe.
February 12, 2014
I'm sure public safety will be fine in the Cumberland district. No one including the Braves would want anything be a safe area. The development around the new stadium is going to be really nice and the only way anyone would want to live there is if it were safe.

The Braves coming to the Cumberland district is clearly the best thing for that area in 30 years. End of Story.
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