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Commissioner Jeff Rader uses Brookhaven’s COVID-19 relief money as bargaining chip

COVID-19 Metro ATL

Commissioner Jeff Rader uses Brookhaven’s COVID-19 relief money as bargaining chip

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
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By Logan C. Ritchie and Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur, GA — Brookhaven is expected to receive $6.3 million in COVID-19 stimulus money, but that distribution is on hold because Commissioner Jeff Rader wants the city to negotiate with the county over unrelated issues.

In an effort to cushion the economic blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act was signed into federal law in March 2020 providing $2 trillion in financial aid to workers, families, and businesses.

In April, DeKalb County received $125 million from the CARES Act, and plans to distribute federal funding to its 12 municipalities.

The county is in the process of finalizing intergovernmental agreements with 11 of the 12 cities due to receive funding. But Rader is holding up Brookhaven’s agreement because he wants the city to discuss its annexations and tax breaks with the county, according to Decaturish contributor Logan Ritchie who attended a recent County Commission meeting.

“The reason I am seeking that differentiation from Brookhaven is that the city of Brookhaven is currently engaged in and has engaged in a series of aggressive annexations and tax abatements that they have not discussed or vetted with DeKalb County,” Rader said. “My goal is to bring them to the table to discuss with us the impact of their unilateral action on annexation and tax abatements so that we can better understand the public’s purpose in these actions, and to seek to resolve our differences for that.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution provided additional details about the dispute.

“In recent years, Brookhaven has annexed unincorporated parts of DeKalb into the city while simultaneously offering developers lucrative tax incentives to build there,” the AJC reported. “A pair of deals struck near the new Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campus at Clairmont Road and I-85 have particularly irked Rader, who has said the arrangements impact county and school tax bases without them having a say in the matter.”

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst blasted Rader for blocking the CARES act funding.

“Negotiating on behalf of all cities in the DeKalb Municipal Association, I am grateful for the collaboration with CEO Michael Thurmond to expedite critical relief benefitting all residents across DeKalb County,” he said. “Who could have foreseen that Commissioner Jeff Rader would hold his own constituents hostage for political gain? The CARES Act funding amounts to $6.3 million that Brookhaven would use for rent relief, business support, personal protective equipment for government employees and COVID-19 testing for the public. Jeff Rader’s approach harkens to the days when DeKalb County was nationally known for incompetence and corruption. I thought we closed that chapter in the region’s history.”

 

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