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    A proposed deal for practice soccer fields and a corporate headquarters for Atlanta United FC would cost DeKalb County an estimated $12 million, 41 acres of government land and tax considerations, according to a pending agreement. The $30 million soccer complex would be built near the intersection of Interstate 285 and Memorial Drive, behind the DeKalb Jail. In exchange, the team owned by Arthur Blank would build a 3,500-seat stadium, three outdoor practice fields and a corporate headquarters. Additional fields and an indoor training facility could be built later. Ownership of the land and facilities would revert to the county after 30 years. The proposed agreement, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday, is scheduled for a vote of the DeKalb Commission on Tuesday. The $12 million contribution from the county includes an estimated $7 million paid to Blank so the county could locate its parks department in new offices in the stadium. Another estimated $5 million would be required for demolition and land preparation. In addition, Blank won’t have to pay property taxes, and all permitting fees for the soccer complex would be waived. The county would pursue funding for a pedestrian walkway from the complex to the Kensington MARTA station. Blank would pay the county 15 percent of revenue for naming rights and branded events held at the complex. The fields and the stadium could be used by the county when they’re not needed by Atlanta United, which will begin its first season in 2017. Atlanta United will share space with the Atlanta Falcons for its games in a new downtown stadium, which is under construction.
  • Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is calling for “restraint” in ongoing unrest in Baltimore and defended Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s handling of protests that quickly turned violent this week.Parts of the city erupted in chaos Monday night amid tensions over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man who died on April 19, a week after he sustained injuries during an arrest. An investigation into his death is ongoing. His death highlights an ongoing national discussion about policing tactics in minority communities.Rawlings-Blake has since faced criticism for her handling of the protests and ensuing riots, with some saying she was too slow to ask Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for military back-up on Monday.Reed, speaking to reporters after an event on Tuesday, expressed sympathy for Gray’s family and defended Rawlings-Blake.Reed said he knows the Baltimore mayor well, describing her as “competent, capable and passionate” individual. The two, who traveled to Panama together with Vice President Joe Biden in recent years, exchanged text messages Monday evening, he said.“I think that everybody in the country and everybody who cares about the people of Baltimore should encourage restraint and I think that we should leave it to local leaders to manage and handle,” he said, later adding: “I think they need to be given the time and space to work through what is clearly a very, very difficult time.”Reed said Atlanta has faced its own set of difficult civil protests, such as the Occupy Atlanta movement in Woodruff Park that lasted for several weeks in 2011.But none in recent years have resulted in the scenes that played out in Baltimore on Monday, when some of the protests turned violent. Several police officers were injured during the riots. Cars were burned and stores were looted.Reed said that unlike other cities, Atlanta has long benefited from the work of local civil rights icons including Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and C.T. Vivian.“I think that certainly influences the way that protests are handled in our city,” he said. “While I don’t deserve the credit for it, I think our city has shown an ability to navigate through pretty difficult times.”
  • MARTA maps out the route it hopes to take up Georgia 400 to extend rail service to Alpharetta.   Any expansion of rail service is years off, but MARTA's board approved the preferred route after input from residents.  It crosses SR 400 not once, but twice, to reach Alpharetta.   The first crossover will be above the North Springs Station south of Spalding Drive.  The second crossing will be above the Chattahoochee River, although the exact spot has not been selected.   MARTA has yet to secure funding.  The agency estimates heavy rail would cost two billion dollars.  A cheaper option might be to run rapid transit buses along the same route.   MARTA is considering other potential expansion projects include heavy rail along I-20 East and a light rail line from the Lindbergh station to Avondale.  MARTA General Manager Keith Parker tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the priority project is the one that secures funding first.  
  • A planned addition to the new Avalon development is looking to attract even more business to Alpharetta.  The proposed $100 million hotel would include a 74,000-square foot conference center.  David Belle Isle, mayor of Alpharetta tells the Atlanta Business Chronicle it would keep his city as the center of economic development in  north Atlanta.  It's just another addition to Alpharetta, which has already begun a revitalization of its downtown area.  The city council must still figure out how to pay for the boutique hotel. It'll vote on raising its hotel-motel tax later this month.
  • Packed with passengers and freighted with local and national expectations, Atlanta’s streetcar made its inaugural trip Tuesday as scores of political and community leaders cheered. The trip along Auburn Avenue to Woodruff Park downtown took less than five minutes. But its duration belied the sizable aspirations the trip represented. Atlanta officials are betting the $98 million project will reinvigorate tourism and encourage business investment along the route. Nationally, President Barack Obama’s transportation legacy hinges in part on his ability to move the nation toward rail. Atlanta’s streetcar is one of the first completed projects in that effort. Scores of invited guests packed the cars elbow to elbow for the trip, and several hundred people gathered at Woodruff Park for an official ribbon cutting. Check back for updates.
  • A judge today rejected a request to bar Fulton County from collecting money from a recent 17 percent property tax increase – a victory for the county in its ongoing battle with critics who say it spends too much.Senior Cobb County Superior Court Judge G. Grant Brantley did not rule the tax hike is legal. But he declined to order Fulton to refrain from collecting about $1,300 in additional taxes that six current and former state lawmakers owe because of the tax increase.The judge did not explain his ruling. But the decision could indicate Brantley thinks the county is more likely to prevail in the litigation.That’s a setback for the lawmakers, who claim Fulton violated a 2013 state law that prohibits the county from raising its property tax rate until 2015. They’ve asked the judge to prohibit the county from collecting the new taxes and to declare the tax hike illegal.Fulton officials have argued the General Assembly overstepped its authority when it capped county tax rates until next year. They say the tax hike is needed to protect funding for Grady Memorial Hospital and popular services like libraries and senior programs.The tax increase will cost the owner off a $275,000 house an extra $140 a year. But with property values in some areas rising fast, some taxpayers are seeing much larger increases.
  • Some Fulton County judges say they don’t have to comply with county travel policies, and they’re willing to jail two Fulton officials to make their point. Fulton officials have asked the judges to provide more documentation to justify some travel expenses, and they’ve withheld reimbursements until the judges comply. The judges say they don’t have to, citing new state laws that give them greater control over their own budget. Now Superior Court Chief Judge Gail Tusan has ordered County Manager Dwight Ferrell and Finance Director Patrick O’Connor to show why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for violating a recent court order to reimburse the judges. She’s threatened to incarcerate them if they don’t. A hearing on the contempt issue scheduled for Sept. 2, and a courtroom discussion of procedural matters in the case is set for Monday. The showdown is the latest fallout from a flurry of new laws aimed at limiting the authority of Fulton County government. County officials also are in court defending their recent decision to raise property taxes, which critics say violates a tax cap approved by the General Assembly last year. Tusan declined to comment on the issue because it’s a legal matter pending in her court. Superior Court Administrator Yolanda Lewis declined to answer questions, including whether the judges believe the county’s travel reimbursement procedures are burdensome. Lewis issued a statement saying Superior Court is “working collaboratively to resolve this matter with the assistance of the county manager and finance director for Fulton County. No further comment will be offered at this time to allow the collaborative process to move forward expeditiously.” Fulton officials declined to discuss the spat with the judges in detail. County Commission Chairman John Eaves said he believes the dispute is “resolvable.” Ferrell and O’Connor did not respond to requests for comment.
  • A judge has ruled the group that holds the title on the building at Peachtree and Pine Streets in Midtown Atlanta where hundreds of men, women and children bed down nightly can start the court process to evict the Task Force for the Homeless because it had not made a payment in years. Fulton Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall said in an order Friday that the removal process could begin, but his order did not say that eviction was imminent or even certain. The matter of whether the shelter can continue to operate is far from resolved. For years, the Task Force for the Homeless — led by Anita Beatty — has been at war with the city, Central Atlanta Progress and some of the business community because hundreds of homeless mill around and sometimes spill over into neighboring properties, vandalize and break into cars, businesses and homes nearby. Beatty has accused city officials and CAP of a campaign to cut off donations because they want the homeless out of sight. Once the large donors were dissuaded from helping the Task Force, it became impossible for the charity to pay its bills, including hundreds of thousands of dollars it owned the city for water, she said. The Task Force claims donations that once totaled as much as $1.7 million a year dropped to around $200,000, because the Atlanta business community had poisoned its reputation with donors. Without the Peachtree-Pine shelter, Beatty says, the homeless she serves will have nowhere to go. As many as 650 men, women and children sleep at the shelter each night but there are far more when the weather is bad or it’s cold. Over the years of the dispute, opponents of the shelter have insisted that no one will be left with nowhere to go if the Peachtree-Pine Shelter is closed. Richard Robbins, the attorney for Ichthus Community Trust, said the lender planned to “pursue dispossessory like any other owner in the state. If they (Task Force for the Homeless) want to fight it, they can fight it. However, they have to pay rent in the meantime. “This is not kicking out the homeless,” Robbins said. “It will be evicting the Task force. If the Task Force is evicted, we will transition the homeless to other shelters. If they don’t pay rent, they have to leave and we’ll bring in someone else to run the shelter.” Attorney Steven Hall, who represents the Task Force, said the charity will resist eviction efforts. “We have been fighting for years over the manner in which title was obtained and a foreclosure was conducted,” Hall said. “We’re hoping this will mean the court will hear all issues at one time and we will get a final answer.” The Task Force for the Homeless got into financial straits after it borrowed $900,000 in 1997 to make repairs on the building that it owned at the time. Ichthus bought the note in 2010 for just over $781,000 and soon began the removal process, which stopped, started and then stopped again because of legal issues.
  • First the Braves stadium, now another controversy pops up surrounding Cobb County taxpayers.  Cobb voters head to the polls this fall to decide whether to renew a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The SPLOST includes an easy-to-understand section for $100 million for a proposed new controversial dedicated bus route.  Commission chair Tim Lee has asked commissioners to split that money into ten projects.  Opponents believe Lee is only trying to confuse the average voter into choosing the project by making it more confusing on the ballot.  He says it would help the county qualify for $250 million in federal grant money for the half-billion dollar project.  The bus route has run into plenty of opposition.  It would mainly serve the congested Cobb Parkway area, as well as a direct line between Kennesaw State University and Midtown Atlanta.  Several public hearings and information meetings are scheduled for the SPLOST over the next two weeks.
  • DFCS case workers will now be required to work overtime in an effort to reduce the thousands of backlogged child protective cases through out the state. Starting Tuesday, workers at the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services will be required to work a minimum of eight hours overtime each week until each of the more than 3,300 overdue child protective services investigations are taken care of. The 3,300 overdue cases represent about half of all child protective service investigations, according to the Georgia Department of Human Services. Bobby Cagle, interim director of Georgia DFCS implemented the policy following a rise in reports of child abuse and neglect in the last year. Reports have increased by almost 2000 cases monthly to an average of 8,400 initial reports a month, according to DHS. With the new policy, Cagle hopes to take care of 95 percent of the overloaded cases safely and completely by the end of July. In addition to the mandatory increase in working hours, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has promised to allocate funding for 500 additional case workers over the next three years. 175 have already been hired.

News

  • Pickens County deputies are searching for an armed fugitive.  Authorities are looking for Nicholas Bishop in the area of Priest Circle in Talking Rock.  Bishop is believed to be armed with a handgun and on foot after he abandoned a stolen vehicle around 2 p.m.  If you see him, call 911 immediately. Officials say do not attempt to approach him. - Please return for updates.
  • One more time, Doris Payne, the 86-year-old infamous international jewel thief, has pleaded guilty to the usual crime. She admitted Wednesday to stealing a necklace from Von Maur at Perimeter Mall last year, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said. Payne, who recently said she’s been dealing with a possibly cancerous tumor, was sentenced to 120 days of house arrest and three years of probation.  She was also banned from all Von Maur locations and every mall in DeKalb County. Payne, who’d been free on bond, was arrested last month for missing a court date. Shortly after the would-be appearance, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she wasn’t medically able to attend. “I ain’t runnin’,” she said in a phone interview. “I’ve never in my life been late for court. Last month, Payne was deemed too ill to stand trial by the judge presiding over a Fulton County case stemming from a missing set of earrings at Phipps Plaza. Payne has been open about her habits of theft, which she detailed in a documentary called, “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.” RELATED: Huge DeKalb center with (at least) 8 popular chains is opening soon RELATED: Cop helps elderly woman who got kicked out of dentist office in DeKalb RELATED: A DeKalb family’s tale of two dead bodies and a crying baby girl Like DeKalb County News Now on Facebook | Follow on Twitter and Instagram
  • A drunken driver destroyed a row of headstones at a historic Carrollton cemetery, causing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of damage, police said. According to police, the driver was coming down Martin Luther King Street on March 19, ran a stop sign, jumped a curb and crashed into the city-owned cemetery. The broken headstones range in date from the late 1800s to 1950. 'And what we discussed is, if one is damaged beyond repair, we'll put something back that's respectful. It's hard to replace it with the exact same item. The families aren't around anymore, so the city will take on the responsibility,' city manager Tim Grizzard said. TRENDING STORIES: Thousands of Georgians could lose food stamps next week 16-year-old in custody after hoax call about school gunman Food prices at SunTrust Park vs. Mercedes-Benz Stadium: What's the difference? The 35-year-old driver, Ray Antonio Baker, was arrested and charged with DUI. City officials said they will ask his insurance carrier to pay for the damage. 'Our plan is to go after the individual's insurance to pay for repairs. If that doesn't pay for everything, the city will certainly pick up the tab,' Grizzard said. Officials said this isn't the first time a driver has damaged headstones, but it's not a big enough problem to put up a wall. 'It's not something that has happened often enough that we need to put up a barrier. If it was a recurrent spot, we would do something,' Grizzard said. City officials said it could take weeks to repair the damage.
  • President Donald Trump faces one last hurdle to ending nearly seven years of lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University when a judge decides Thursday whether to approve a $25 million settlement with former customers. When attorneys reached a deal 10 days after Trump's election, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said he hoped it would be part of 'a healing process that this country very sorely needs.' A month later, he granted preliminary approval of the deal. Last week, attorneys for former customers said their clients will get at least 80 percent of their money back, based on the roughly 3,730 claims submitted. Trump has paid $25 million into escrow to settle two federal class-action lawsuits before Curiel and a civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He admitted no wrongdoing. The lawsuits allege that Trump University gave nationwide seminars that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring people to spend more and, in the end, failing to deliver on its promises. Two customers have objected to the settlement. Sherri Simpson, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, attorney, says she wasn't given enough opportunity to opt out of the lawsuit and should have the right to sue the president. Simpson and a partner paid $35,000 in 2010 to enroll in Trump University's 'Gold Elite' program to be paired with a mentor who would teach them Trump's secret real estate investment strategies. Simpson, who appeared in two anti-Trump campaign ads, said they got little for their money — the videos were 5 years old, the materials covered information that could be found free on the internet and her mentor didn't return calls or emails. 'I would like an admission that he was wrong, an admission that, 'Oops, maybe I didn't handle it as well as I should have, I didn't set it up as well as I should have, that I didn't maintain it or oversee it as well as I should have,'' Simpson told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Attorneys for Trump and those suing him say the deadline to opt out was in November 2015 and Simpson missed her chance. Thirteen people opted out before that date, none of whom have shown any desire to sue the president. Another customer, Harold Doe, objected to the settlement because he wants more money, according to court filings by attorneys for Trump and the plaintiffs. Trump University dogged the Republican businessman throughout the campaign as rivals used Trump's depositions and extensive documents filed in the lawsuits to portray him as dishonest and deceitful. Trump brought more attention by repeatedly assailing Curiel, insinuating that the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage exposed a bias. The settlement was reached 10 days before a trial was set to begin, sparing Trump what would have been a major distraction. The trial would have been pinned on whether a jury believed Trump misled customers by calling the business a university when it wasn't an accredited school and by falsely advertising that he hand-picked instructors. Trump vowed never to settle but said after the election that he didn't have time for a trial, even though he believed he would have prevailed. ___ Associated Press writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.