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Brian Kemp to name transition team, as Stacey Abrams prepares new legal battle

Brian Kemp to name transition team, as Stacey Abrams prepares new legal battle

The candidates fought long and hard, but the race for Georgia governor is now decided. In a matter of hours, Republican Brian Kemp will address the public about his transition into office. We'll be at the 10 a.m. news conference for live updates on Channel 2 Action News at Noon. [RELATED: Georgia certifies election results, confirming Brian Kemp as governor] Democrat Stacey Abrams may have lost, but she's planning to launch a new legal battle. RELATED STORIES: Abrams acknowledges Kemp will be governor, says speech is 'not a concession' Gov. Deal on Kemp-Abrams race: 'It should be over' Kemp vs. Abrams: Georgia governor's race by the numbers Georgia’s now governor-elect appeared at the capitol the day after the state certified the election, giving him the win over Abrams by 55,000 votes. “The election is over, and I’m honored to be Georgia’s governor-elect,” Kemp said this weekend. Kemp praised Abrams as a tough opponent. Abrams spoke one-on-one with Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot hours later, without conceding, acknowledging she would not have enough votes to continue the fight. She and her team plan on filing a major federal lawsuit that will look at what she calls gross mismanagement of the election and the electoral system she says kept some from casting a vote. “To insist that strong legal reforms be mandated to ensure that elections are fair in the state of Georgia going forward,” Abrams said. With talk of a possible run for Senate in two years already swirling, Abrams says she does not know what her next step will be as private citizen. “But I do know that every step will be a step forward for Georgia, to make sure that everyone that wants to be a part of our leadership has a real fair chance to do so,” Abrams said. Kemp says he will be focused on the issues that got him elected and asked all Georgia residents to stand with him after a divisive election. “It’s a tough business, politics. But the fact of the matter is the election is now over, and I’ve got to focus on governing this state, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” Kemp said.

As another season passes, Cobb in dark about final Braves stadium cost

As another season passes, Cobb in dark about final Braves stadium cost

A year and a half after the first pitch at SunTrust Park, Cobb has yet to account for tens of millions of dollars in stadium construction work and officials haven’t independently confirmed a final price tag on the county’s largest, most controversial public works project. The seeming lack of interest in tracking the true cost of a county-owned asset built with massive public investment reflects what some see as a lack of basic oversight by Cobb officials. The Braves, who managed the stadium construction, say at $684 million, the ballpark exceeded its budget, with the team covering more than its share. But Cobb only has invoices covering $536 million, meaning there are roughly $148 million in construction costs for which Cobb officials have not reviewed receipts. “We have invoices for all work that was the county’s responsibility to pay for,” the county said in a statement. Determining the stadium’s final cost and the percentage paid by the county and the Braves is vital to understanding taxpayers’ roll in a project touted as a win-win partnership when officials announced it five years ago. The contract inked with the Braves stipulates that if the project came under budget, the savings may be applied toward “mutually agreed upon” stadium improvements or a capital maintenance fund — both expenses that taxpayers must help cover. The lack of a clear accounting means the county is at a disadvantage to verify if there were any savings and hampers public scrutiny of what the Braves claimed as a stadium expense. Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce said the remaining invoices don’t matter because Cobb’s contribution to the stadium is fixed and it won’t change, regardless of the final tally for construction. In 2016, Boyce rode a wave of voter discontent over the stadium deal to defeat former chairman Tim Lee. Part of his platform was a call for greater transparency with regards the ballpark. Boyce now dismisses concerns over the county’s book-keeping, saying he has no leverage anyway to compel the Braves to provide more documentation. A provision in the contract allows either side to audit the project. “We’ve paid our bills,” Boyce said. “Both sides are now in agreement that we have fulfilled all our obligations.” Ongoing costs at SunTrust Park and who pays for them are hardly a settled matter. In September, the county and the Braves resolved a legal dispute over $1.5 million in sewer infrastructure. Previously, the Braves successfully argued that certain road improvements around the ballpark did not count toward the county’s $14 million stadium transportation obligation, forcing Cobb to dip into its water fund to reimburse the team. No ‘pointed questions’ In statements to the public as recently as this year, Braves and county officials have consistently emphasized that the team was paying the lion’s share of the ballpark construction, budgeted at $672 million. Those figures were always potentially misleading. In fact, the development agreement the county signed in May 2014 put the stadium budget at $622 million, with the Braves kicking in another $50 million in “discretionary” funds if they wanted. Public funds accounted for $392 of the up-front costs, in addition to $35 million in capital maintenance over 30 years. The Braves were obligated to pay at least $230 million in construction costs on the front end, and will reimburse Cobb an estimated $92 million through rent payments over the next three decades. The team was also responsible for any cost overruns. But the Braves were in control of much of the planning and construction, placing the onus on the county to watch-dog the actual costs. Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who has been a consistent skeptic of the Braves deal, said there is little appetite on the board to damage the relationship with the team by asking “pointed questions.” As a result, she doesn’t believe the taxpayers are being protected as they should be. “Throughout this time, there has been no record or documents forwarded to the board on a regular or periodic basis to show how these things are being accounted for,” Cupid said. “There have been other costs above and beyond what the county has said our contribution should be.” The county’s most recent summary of stadium invoices, updated in June, totals just $536 million for stadium construction costs. Of that, $155 million is identified as having been paid by the Braves. A line item on the summary lists another $95 million as coming from Braves “outside” construction accounts, but there are no details about these charges and Cobb has not received invoices for those billings, county officials said. In response to the AJC’s questions for this story, Greg Heller, the Brave’s executive vice president and chief legal officer, told the county’s legal department that the team has spent $292 million on the stadium. “All payments by the Braves were made in accordance with the terms of the Development Agreement, which permitted direct payments of invoices,” he wrote in an email. Assessing stadium impact Despite Cobb’s incomplete accounting of the project, some county officials have been quick to tout the economic benefits of the ballpark, citing a study released in September by the Center for Economic Development Research at Georgia Tech. Funded by the county’s chamber of commerce and unveiled at the Braves’ new Cobb offices, the study predicts the stadium will have a positive fiscal impact to the county government and the school system. It estimates the Cobb government will take in an average of $4 million a year over expenses, and the school system will reap another $14.9 million a year over the next 20 years. The study’s predictions are largely based on projected revenue from rising property values in the area and the Braves’ mixed-used development, The Battery. Without that development, the stadium itself has a negative impact on the county finances, the report concludes. “[T]hat is why The Battery impact is so important,” the study’s author, Alfie Meeks, wrote in an email. “You simply can’t use the old ‘traditional wisdom’ for stadium financing for this deal.” But J.C. Bradbury, a sports economist at Kennesaw State University who reviewed the study, expressed skepticism about its findings. “This is just ripe for cherry picking,” Bradbury said. “The halo effect is way overstated.” He also pointed to Meeks’ role in assessing a public-private partnership between the Braves and another metro county. Ten years ago, Meeks was the economist for Gwinnett County when it agreed to finance a new $64 million stadium for the Braves’ triple-A minor league team. The deal was bolstered by Meeks’ analysis that the ballpark would generate $15 million a year in new economic activity. A decade later, the Gwinnett stadium struggles to attract fans and hasn’t sparked the explosion of development taxpayers were promised. Meeks said he stands by both stadium studies. ‘This is public money’ The extent of the stadium’s influence on Cobb’s rising property values is subject to debate. But by any measure, the project has been costly to the Cobb government’s bottom line. According to the county’s most recent analysis, Cobb spent about $18 million on SunTrust Park in the 2017 fiscal year, including $6.4 million out of its general fund property taxes and $11 million from other taxes and fees. That doesn’t include $11.8 million Cobb paid, mostly from its water fund, to satisfy the disputed transportation obligation. The revenue directly generated by the project didn’t come close to covering the county’s expenses. The Battery complex brought in $404,000 in property taxes and the Braves paid $3 million in stadium rent to the county. The ballpark also generated $1.6 million in county sales tax, but those funds can’t be used to pay down the debt because they are earmarked for education and transportation. In an attempt to off-set some of the unforeseen costs, including $840,000 in police overtime, commissioners recently amended the Cumberland hotel/motel tax to divert more money for public safety around SunTrust Park—money that would have otherwise gone to fund the Cumberland circulator, stadium debt service or promoting Cobb tourism. This year, Cobb’s stadium debt service and capital maintenance contributions increased, as did rent payments from the Braves. Larry Savage, a Cobb resident who has filed several unsuccessful legal challenges to the stadium deal, sees Cobb’s failure to provide an accurate, durable accounting of total project costs is indicative of the way the ballpark has been handled from the beginning. “The whole thing is just misinformed and a very one-sided deal,” Savage said. “This is public money and they’re supposed to be accountable for it.”

Good news, drivers: Gas prices are dropping ahead of Thanksgiving Day weekend

Good news, drivers: Gas prices are dropping ahead of Thanksgiving Day weekend

As many of you hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday you should notice lower gas prices across metro Atlanta. An Exxon on Indian Trail Road in Norcross has regular gas for $2.29. That's 18 cents below the national average. [Check the lowest gas prices in metro Atlanta HERE] In DeKalb County this QuikTrip on Chamblee Tucker road is selling gas for $2.48. That's about the average price drivers are paying in Georgia. AAA shows prices have fallen 30-cents in the last month. [Best and worst times to drive in Atlanta this Thanksgiving] More than 54 million Americans are expected to travel this Thanksgiving holiday, according to the American Automobile Association. That’s the most since 2005. Travelers in many of the typically congested cities can expect to spend four times longer on the roads during this period than they would normally spend, especially if traveling by road. TRENDING STORIES: FBI investigating after American woman dies on cruise ship en route to Aruba Record number of stores will be closed Thanksgiving Day Nurse accused of poisoning husband with insulin Across the country, gas prices are the highest in years.  “Motorists have become accustomed to this year’s more expensive gas prices and won’t let higher fuel costs deter them from taking Thanksgiving road trips,” said AAA gas price expert Jeanette Casselano.

Join News 95.5 and AM750 WSB at any of the participating Walmart stores for our annual Clark's Christmas Kids toy and gift drive.
Join News 95.5 and AM750 WSB at any of the participating Walmart stores for our annual Clark's Christmas Kids toy and gift drive.
Join News 95.5 and AM750 WSB at any of the participating Walmart stores for our annual Clark's Christmas Kids toy and gift drive.
Join News 95.5 and AM750 WSB at any of the participating Walmart stores for our annual Clark's Christmas Kids toy and gift drive.
GOP gains Senate seat as Nelson concedes Florida recount loss

After a post-election vote fight that showcased vote counting troubles in two south Florida counties, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) conceded defeat to Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Sunday, ensuring Republican gains in the Senate in the 2018 mid-term elections, and delivering a welcome piece of good post-election news for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

“I just spoke with Senator Bill Nelson, who graciously conceded, and I thanked him for his years of public service,” said Scott in a statement.

“My focus will not be on looking backward, but on doing exactly what I ran on,” Scott said. “Making Washington Work.”

“Thinks [More]