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Decatur mayor highlights city’s planning efforts, upcoming projects during ‘State of the City’ speech

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Decatur mayor highlights city’s planning efforts, upcoming projects during ‘State of the City’ speech

Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett delivered the 2023 State of the City address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at the Chapel on Sycamore. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
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Decatur, GA — Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett highlighted the city’s planning efforts and projects in her 2023 State of the City address on Jan. 24.

“Our strategic plan continues to be a major focus,” Garrett said. “All paths in the city lead back to our strategic plan. Our six focus areas are equity and racial justice, climate action, civic trust, affordable housing, mobility and economic growth.”

She highlighted some of Decatur’s many planning efforts, including the parks and recreation master plan and the downtown master plan, which are ongoing projects in the city.

“We pride ourselves on planning and involving the community in doing so, and using those plans to guide budget decisions and actions. Following through and implementation of plans is definitely a priority for this city,” Garrett said.

The city also adopted the clean energy plan in 2022.

“The clean energy plan is ambitious,” Garrett said. “One of our goals is to have all of our municipal buildings supplied by clean and renewable energy by 2030.”

Solar panels have been installed on the public works facility. Early last year, the city received a $750,000 community project funding grant from Rep. Nikema Williams (GA-5) for solar panels on the Decatur Recreation Center.

“We’ve been notified that we’ve received $500,000 for solar panels at the Beacon complex from Sen. [Jon] Ossoff’s community projects funding [grants],” Garrett said.

Another climate initiative identified in the strategic plan is increasing the city’s tree canopy. The city commission adopted an updated tree ordinance on Jan. 18, 2022, and it went into effect on March 21, 2022.

“The new tree ordinance established a goal of 65% canopy coverage, compared to the 57% that was measured in 2019 and for a number of years prior to that,” Garrett said. “A survey will be conducted in 2024 to help gauge the new ordinance’s effectiveness and determine progress toward our tree canopy goal.”

The city is also working on its affordable housing initiatives. The cottage court development is underway on Commerce Drive. The cottages will be first offered to employees of the city of Decatur, City Schools of Decatur and the Decatur Housing Authority.

The city and the Decatur Housing Authority hope to break ground on the South Housing Village at Legacy Park soon. DHA received low-income housing tax credits for phase one of the project. The first phase includes building 66 residential units and the connecting roads and infrastructure for the development.

“I have to announced that we’ve received infrastructure funding from Congressman Hank Johnson’s office for both the creative village at Legacy Park and the South Housing Village,” Garrett said. “We look forward to that groundbreaking and that housing initiative that will offer opportunities for people who can’t currently live and enjoy the city of Decatur and [City Schools of Decatur], be a part of our community.”

Looking ahead to 2023, the city will continue to implement the clean energy plan and strategic plan, complete the parks and recreation and downtown master plans, work on roads and sidewalks, collaborate with CSD on the design of the track and field at Legacy Park, and welcome new businesses to the city, Garrett said.

State of the Schools Address

Decatur School Board Chair James Herndon delivered the 2023 State of the Schools address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at the Chapel on Sycamore. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

School Board Chair James Herndon delivered the State of the Schools address, and highlighted some of the accomplishments of the school district.

He began by sharing advice from former Mayor Elizabeth Wilson and her concept of good, better, best.

“We in the City Schools of Decatur have the opportunity, the resources and the relationship to be the best,” Herndon said.

Some of the accomplishments he highlighted are:

– The construction of the track and field at Legacy Park.

“I want to thank the city of Decatur for the collaboration, cooperation on this joint venture to build an athletic field and track. Having athletic fields for our students, for our city has been a tremendous journey. We really appreciate your partnership in getting that done,” Herndon said.

– In September 2022, the district kicked off the process of developing a five-year strategic plan. Superintendent Maggie Fehrman will soon kick off the vision and mission phase of the strategic plan process.

– CSD is also working on its charter system contract renewal.

“Some of the things we’re applying for are ensuring that every student in our school system achieves high-quality reading instruction, or receives it, and partners with a school that specializes in intensive reading intervention,” Herndon said. “We’re partnering with universities on how we can grow our teachers and provide a longer runway to prepare and train educators.”

The district also plans to offer CSD staff multiyear contracts and is exploring how the school system can partner with local businesses to provide students with internships.

– Equity has been a main focus for CSD.

“This is the foundation and the core belief of every member of the City Schools [of Decatur School Board]. We are working on groundbreaking equity policies,” Herndon said. “While school boards across the country are discussing whether racism and history have a place in our classrooms, we’re having a conversation about how do we make sure that they happen in our classrooms.”

– Additionally, the middle school student center has opened to provide wraparound services and counseling to address social, emotional and mental health concerns for the middle school students.

Thomas O. Davis Service Award

City Manager Andrea Arnold presented the Thomas O. Davis Award to Michael Gerald.

“Decatur’s Thomas O. Davis Award honors someone who helps strengthen the bond between government and our community,” Arnold said. “They serve as a role model for others in public service, they contribute to the well-being of the community, they inspire others to get involved in public service, and they serve the public with respect.”

Gerald is an equipment operator in the city’s solid waste division.

“Michael came to work for the city of Decatur in April 1993 as a sanitation equipment operator in the public works department. This year he celebrates 30 years with the city,” Arnold said.

“Back in the early 90s…we were trying to create a downtown where people wanted to gather,” Arnold said. “We started partnering with local nonprofits to host new events like the concerts on the Square and the Decatur Arts Festival. As the events grew, clean up became too much for volunteers to handle. This is where Michael comes into the picture.”

Gerald’s supervisor had suggested he lead a team of off-duty employees to help set up for and clean up after events.

“Michael is the one who’s there at the beginning and at the end of these events. He’s quick to respond to the events’ needs. He selects awesome team members that are willing to do the heavy lifting even after their regular job is done,” Arnold said.

She added that he goes above and beyond what is asked and has a great attitude.

“Michael is a true role model for all of us in public service,” Arnold said. “He reminds many of us why we have committed ourselves to public service. It’s not for fortune or fame, but just to make a place a little bit better than when we found it. Michael certainly has done that over his 30 years.”

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