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Many Stone Mountain employees wary of vaccine mandate

elections Stone Mountain

Many Stone Mountain employees wary of vaccine mandate

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: DeKalb County Board of Health R.N. Sheila Alexander administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to Nurse Care Coordinator Yolanda Bell at the T. O. Vinson Health Center Auditorium on Winn Way in Decatur on Dec. 31, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Stone Mountain, GA — Some city of Stone Mountain employees started a petition against a COVID-19 vaccine mandate as the city council continues to debate instituting one.

About one-third of the city’s 32 employees are known to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to City Manager Chaquias Miller-Thornton. The city surveyed its staff to give them a chance to weigh in on a mandate. Employees expressed a variety of concerns.

“One is medical reasons, one is not thinking that they have enough information about the vaccine or effects of the vaccine, some think the vaccine was pushed out in a sense of urgency and emergency and that there wasn’t enough development, and there were some employees that believe … they should make their own decision about their own body when it comes to this vaccine,” Miller-Thornton said at Tuesday’s council work session.

The city council will review the comment cards from the employee survey to decide their next steps. The issue has been a hot topic among candidates for mayor and city council.

Miller-Thornton also presented the council with the results of a Georgia Municipal Association survey on employee vaccine and mask mandates in cities across the state. Eighty-seven cities responded. Four have vaccine mandates for employees, 28 have vaccine incentive programs and 31 require employees to wear masks in city facilities. Six more are considering vaccine incentive programs.

The city is also working with the DeKalb County Board of Health to set up a vaccination site in Medlock Park. They hope to get it done in the next few weeks, according to Miller-Thornton.

“[DeKalb] Commissioner [Steve] Bradshaw is on board with helping us with that,” she said. “His team is excited about getting that accomplished.”

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the city will apply for a grant from the State Road and Tollway Authority to improve the intersection at Main Street and Mimosa Drive.

“The intersection is fairly unsafe and not very functional,” Mayor Pro Tem Chakira Johnson said.

There is up to $15 million in available funding. The application deadline is Dec. 15.

An ordinance that would institute a blight tax was introduced on Tuesday. Property owners with blighted properties would be charged a higher millage rate to be determined by the council.

“It provides the city and the administration with an additional arrow in its quiver as far as how to deal with blighted properties,” City Attorney Jeff Strickland said.

City Councilmember Clint Monroe said the ordinance is too vague. The council next needs to determine what that higher millage rate will be.

The council also discussed street closures for next year’s Mardi Gras parade. It will take place on Feb. 26 and will be the first one since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The parade route would go from East Mountain Street and 3rd Street, to East Mountain and Main Street, to Main and Manor Drive, to Manor and 3rd, to 3rd and East Mountain. There are also plans to hang Mardi Gras banners in two spots downtown.

The council also introduced a resolution for the city to observe its New Year’s Day holiday on Friday, Dec. 31 this year.

In a special called session before the work session, a consultant from the Georgia Municipal Association gave an update on American Rescue Plan Act funding. The federal government awarded $1.4 billion in ARPA funds to Georgia. Stone Mountain received $2.4 million.

The consultant, Terrell Jacobs, advised city officials not to make any “rash statements” about how the money will be spent. He cited a city in South Georgia that gave its officials a “significant bonus” out of ARPA funds.

“You don’t want to bring attention to yourself, you don’t want to bring a level of scrutiny,” Jacobs said.

The deadline to spend the funds is Dec. 31, 2026.

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