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Tucker feeling pressure to expand while improving current infrastructure

Annexation, new cities Business Chamblee Trending Tucker

Tucker feeling pressure to expand while improving current infrastructure

The Tucker city council held its annual retreat Feb. 10. Photo by Sara Amis

This story has been updated. 

Tucker, GA — The Tucker city council held its annual retreat Feb. 10. In a free-form discussion towards the end of the meeting, the mayor, council, and city manager discussed the future of Tucker, including the possibility of annexation.

City Manager John McHenry said that annexation efforts by neighboring cities like Chamblee create a situation where the city that gets there first wins, which possibly creates pressure for Tucker to try to annex certain areas before the city is necessarily ready. 

Councilmember Virginia Rece said that the city needs to balance considerations of budget, staff time, managing resources the city already has, and defending the city’s borders and ability to grow.

“We need to take a hard look at the pros and cons,” Rece said.

Here are the other things discussed at the Feb. 10 retreat:

— Reports from the city manager and department heads about the current state of the city and immediate prospects included overviews of what each department does for the benefit of new city council members Vinh Nguyen and Amy Trocchi. 

— Mayor Frank Auman said that before his term-limited stint as mayor ends, he would like to see that the city has good processes and procedures built in, and that will be his priority over the next couple of years.

— The city seems focused on improving existing infrastructure and carrying out some of its capital improvement plans, along with ongoing community and economic development efforts.

McHenry offered an overview of capital projects for 2024 which include the completion of Fitzgerald Park, bid awards for the downtown and Johns Homestead parks, and project engineering for the Lake Erin Dam, roundabouts, and the next segments of the city’s trail network.

McHenry also said that he has hired Garrin Coleman from Lowe Engineering to create a comprehensive overview of all the city’s capital projects and a blueprint for capital management for the city.

City Engineer Ken Hildebrandt said that his department has 13 road improvement projects currently under design and five more in some stage of construction. In addition, the city is working on several sidewalk completion and trail projects at various stages.

An engineering contract for Lake Erin Dam will be on the agenda for the Feb. 12 city council meeting. Hildebrandt said that DeKalb County will pay for about half of the $3 million estimated cost.

Hildebrandt said that while many of the projects are fully funded through SPLOST and other means, many are not. Hildebrandt added that he would seek federal funding for some projects, including the Tucker-Northlake trail, but that the process of seeking funding will determine how soon most of the projects can be completed.

“We’re looking at over $60 million in projects here, with about $11 million funded, so that’s a big gap,” Hildebrandt said.

City Attorney Ted Baggett said that he will be drafting contract and bidding documents for the Lake Erin Dam project, along with streamlining the city’s tax occupation ordinance and revising alcohol and zoning ordinances to comply with state law. Those items will come up for consideration at a city council meeting soon.

City Councilmember Alexis Weaver asked Baggett how the city could inform the public about the progress of nuisance property cases without getting into the details. Baggett said that he would help draft something for the city’s website.

— Community Development Director Courtney Smith elaborated on the process of condemning buildings but focused mainly on community improvements and plans for more public art along the lines of the Catlanta mural at Lavista Rd. and First Ave.

Smith said that among other things, the city will be beautifying dumpsters with art. 

— Economic Development Director Jackie Moffo said that her department will be conducting a business climate survey and will publish the results, and plans to explore an economic incentive ordinance.

— Ishri Sankar, the director of the new Public Works department, said that his department has completed 1,327 work orders since June and is conducting ongoing upgrades of the city’s infrastructure, including stormwater inspection and repair.

Sankar said that the department’s first-year goal was to reduce backlog.

“I’m feeling pretty confident about that,” Sankar said, adding that the goal for the next year is to reduce response times. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect title for a city employee. This story has been updated with the correct information.

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