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Avondale Estates moves to next step in police chief search, anticipates interviewing candidates in April

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Avondale Estates moves to next step in police chief search, anticipates interviewing candidates in April

Krystal Kvinge holds a sign during a peaceful protest in Avondale Estates for Black Lives Matter and 21st Century Police Reform sponsored by Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice on August 8, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Avondale Estates, GA — Nine candidates will move forward in the process toward becoming the next Avondale Estates Police Chief. City Manager Patrick Bryant said he authorized the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police to move to the next step in the search process, which is conducting a one-day competency assessment.

Following the police department’s failed accreditation attempt, which led to the retirement of former Police Chief Lynn Thomas, the city has been working with the GACP to find his replacement. The GACP will conduct the assessment on March 2, Bryant said during the Feb. 8 City Commission work session.

“We feel like each of these nine candidates possess the qualifications necessary to lead the department into the future, and feel very confident that from that group of nine, we will be able to find the best candidate for us at this time,” Bryant said.

The GACP indicated it will take about one week to score the assessments. Once that is done, Bryant and the GACP will review the scores and determine how many candidates will move forward to the interview phase.

“Once that determination is made, I will convene a panel consisting of stakeholders in the community to assist with that process,” Bryant said. “We anticipate that process occurring in the month of April. If all goes well, we hope we will have a permanent police chief on board sometime during the month of May.”

The city has been working on drafting requests for proposals to seek a third-party review of the police department’s policies and procedures, and a review of the department for racial bias. The GACP has advised the city to wait until a new police chief is hired before releasing the RFPs, so the police chief can participate in the process.

Commissioner Lionel Laratte wondered about the significance of having the future police chief providing input into the RFPs as it would further extend the timeline.

“I’m not sure that is a crucial piece of the puzzle,” Laratte said. “I’m coming at it from the position that this is supposed to be an outside audit, or look, at what the procedures and policies are. I don’t believe that it’s supposed to be in any way adversarial. I believe that what we’re after is the increase of professionalism of our police department. I don’t agree that the chief has to be there.”

He added that the City Commission needs to move forward with the process sooner than the summer. The City Commission committed to hiring a third-party consultant to review the department in June 2020 and interviewed two candidates in September 2020.

“This just seems to me like we’re once again postponing something that residents have asked for,” Laratte said.

Bryant said there is a fear that the new police chief may be blindsided about a process they had no participation in.

“I think it’s important for the organization not to create an immediate adversarial position,” Bryant said. “The department’s participation in the eventual review would be more likely to flow smoothly if the new police chief, who would be looking at the department with fresh eyes to begin with, were able to participate in shaping the type of examination that will be occurring within the department. ”

Mayor Jonathan Elmore and two other commissioners agreed the city should wait until the new police chief is hired.

“I think that the first and foremost thing is to get a new chief and to allow that person to be involved with this as much as possible. This is a critical review of our police department, and I can’t imagine doing that exclusive of the person who’s going to have to implement that stuff,” Elmore said. “I agree that it’s a one, two process.”

— Additionally, during the work session, the City Commission considered separating the North Woods rain garden project into two phases and pursuing a contractor who could work off of the state bid process.

The North Woods project dates back to 2008 when the city created the Lake Avondale Master Plan which included a subsequent North Woods rain garden concept plan to mitigate erosion, said Marco Ancheita of Lord Aeck Sargent at a meeting in March 2021.

The master plan also identified the potential for trails through the North Woods, and there are currently informal trails throughout. The project aims to build on the master plan, take a green infrastructure approach and create an outdoor recreation area with accessible trails.

In January, the City Commission rejected the one bid it received for the project. Reeves Young, the contractor constructing the town green, submitted a proposal that was over $1 million for the base bid and about $340,000 for the alternate. The city allocated $950,000 in this year’s budget for the North Woods project.

The bid was 40% higher than the estimated cost. To move forward and be able to use the grant funding, Bryant suggested phasing the project. Phase one would mainly be constructing the recreational trails and would need to be finished by June 30, under the terms of the $100,000 land and water conservation fund grant the city received. The overall project concept has not changed.

“If the board so chooses to accept that package and move forward with that phase, we will then begin the process of seeking a remedy to complete the remaining phases of the project within budget,” Bryant said. “Right now, we feel reasonably confident we’d be able to do so, but the first and foremost priority is to make sure that we don’t lose this grant award and get the phase associated with it completed by the deadline.”

— In other business, the City Commission set the commercial sanitation fees during its regular meeting.

For businesses that require garbage collection most days of the week, the fee would be $695 for the first 95-gallon receptacle and $295 for each additional receptacle per business.

For business that require garbage collection only on Wednesday, the fee would be $295 for one 95-gallon receptacle.

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