Avondale Estates considers shelter in place order; leaders criticize state’s COVID-19 response
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA – The Avondale Estates City Commission met Wednesday night and will meet again tonight to discuss further actions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The City Commission is considering a shelter in place order which would encourage residents to stay home as much as possible unless they need to perform essential activities. That includes going to the doctor, getting medication and food, and exercising or working outside as long as people comply with social distancing by staying 6 feet apart, the resolution says.
“It’s just like what every other city in DeKalb is doing and the city of Atlanta is doing. It’s encouraging people to stay home unless they need to leave for an essential purpose like food or pharmaceuticals,” City Manager Patrick Bryant said in an interview.
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The shelter in place order is also based on a template proposed by the Georgia Municipal Association. Bryant said GMA is encouraging all cities in the state to adopt the order due to “the governor’s lack of adequate response.”
“I will say that the lack of action from the state has put a lot of pressure on the cities to make these decisions and they’re tough decisions. I think the best we can do, especially in DeKalb County, is to stand together. It’s disappointing that in a state where we’ve got a lot of cases and the numbers just keep going up that we’re not getting better direction,” Mayor Elmore said in an interview.
So far, the city has closed Avondale Estates City Hall and its public works building as of March 17, Decaturish previously reported.
Additionally, the City Commission enacted additional restrictions on March 20 that expire on April 19, 2020, unless canceled or extended. These measures included closing playground equipment, benches and pavilions at city parks, prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people in all spaces and asking restaurants to close their dining rooms.
The shelter in place order does differ from these restrictions by prohibiting gatherings of any size and ordering non-essential businesses to close to the public, Elmore said.
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The city is also trying to be consistent with the actions of surrounding cities, like Decatur and Brookhaven, who have ordered residents to shelter in place.
“I think the stronger action we take now, the sooner this will be over and the less impact it will have on our economy but if we keep taking these half measures it’s just going to prolong it which is going to have an even worse effect on the economy,” Elmore said.
In other business, the City Commission discussed a tax abatement structure for the Department of Juvenile Justice building.
In November 2019, the Avondale Estates Downtown Development Authority entered into a purchase-sale agreement with Forum Management, through which the DDA will sell the Juvenile Justice building to Forum, DDA Chair Dave Deiters said in an email.
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During the initial discussions with Forum Management, the DDA did not offer a tax abatement even though it was requested. Now, Forum is requesting an abatement due to some additional expenses they are anticipating to have to re-engineer the parking lot, Deiters said at the meeting.
“In this deal that we’ve agreed upon, and the DDA did vote to approve it [Tuesday] night, the DDA would technically hold title to the [Juvenile Justice] building for 15 years which is the term of Forum’s lease with the [Department of Juvenile Justice] that they’re executing. As such, no property taxes would be paid for 15 years,” Deiters said.
The City Commission will meet again at 8 p.m. today through a conference call. Residents can call in at 1-480-660-5310 and use the code 960450. The board will further discuss the shelter in place order and the tax abatement structure for the Juvenile Justice building.
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