City’s crime rate dropped 8 percent in 2006

Mon, 01/29/2007 - 10:35am
By: Ben Nelms

Fairburn city officials say 2006 was a great year and 2007 should be even better. That was the message at the annual city council retreat held Jan. 13.

“We’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in the past three years, but we’re not perfect. There are lots of challenges, but the glass is more than half full,” said City Administrator Jim Williams. “I’m not the one running these good programs. That’s being done by excellent staff.”

The council heard reports from all city departments. First up was Police Chief Charles Long, who reported an 8.7 percent decrease in serious crimes during 2006. The significance in those numbers was bolstered by the increase in real population during the year. Fairburn’s population grew by more than 1,000 residents in 2006 and now sits at more than 12,000. Long said the department began its Team Policing model in March, providing enhanced police accountability, increased community contact and increased arrests for lawbreakers. The best news is that prior to 2006, said Long, crime had increased for the three prior years, sometimes in double digits. For 2007, Long said the goal was to decrease serious crimes by five percent, burglaries and entering autos by 10 percent while increasing in-service training by 200 percent.

Fire Chief Jody Weller detailed activities of the city’s new fire department that began in April. Fairburn has four or five paramedics working daily even though the U.S. has a paramedic shortage. Those numbers reflect the fact that Fairburn already has a reputation in the firefighting community as a place firefighters want to work.

Weller said the department worked with local industry to begin formulating disaster response plans. The department also developed an emergency response plan, initiated a business fire safety inspection program and purchased a new fire engine.

In 2007, the city’s 911 center, overseen by the fire department, will install a Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) system. The fire department will continue plans for the construction of two new fire stations and expects to purchase a ladder truck, Weller said. The department will expand its monitoring program and plans to institute a Citizens Fire Academy.

Public Works Director Troy Besseche cited the department’s numerous accomplishments for 2006 and goals for 2007. Among the successes in 2006 were water system improvements on U.S. Highway 29, Johns River Road, Virlyn B. Smith Road and Rivertown Road, water-main replacements on Strickland Street and Vickery Drive and a completed water system hydraulic model for the city’s southwest quadrant.

Water inside the city is currently provided by Fairburn, Fulton County and Atlanta. Williams said plans should include having the entire city on the Fairburn system within the next five years.

Besseche said public works completed a comprehensive reconstruction of the Fireside Pump Station, made improvements to the Aderhold Street area and planned and engineered a new sewage lift station for the Milam Road basin. Significant work was done on the city stormwater system, he said.

For 2007, public works plans to continue work on water and sewer projects that will include thousands of linear feet. Designated stormwater projects will also occur, as will updating the aerial mapping and GIS system and initiating a proposal to install a traffic light on Ga. Highway 74 and Meadow Glen Parkway.

City code enforcement manager Rita Fernandes said the city was able to minimize the number of illegal signs and provide significant job site inspections in 2006. Other accomplishments included identifying some of the city’s substandard houses, she said. That activity is expected to carry over into 2007, with code enforcement working with police, fire and building inspections to reduce the number of abandoned houses. Fernandes announced a goal of having two houses per quarter to be brought up to code or be removed. Citing another goal, Fernandes projected maintaining 90 percent compliance on the city’s many construction projects.

Williams said he has no problem with holding builders’ feet to the fire and receiving complaints from construction site supervisors when they do not comply with city codes. In past years the city has had some of the worst builders I’ve ever seen, Williams said. Those days are long past, he added.

“The bad builders have looked for greener pastures,” Williams said.

Building department superintendent Harvey Stokes said the city formed its own department during 2006. During that time renovations were done at the 911 Center and police department. Both areas share a building and were tied into to a generator system that will keep them functional during a natural disaster. Also during 2006, a gazebo and fence were constructed at the old depot downtown and housing was provided for the Senior’s program.

Building department employees will continue to receive certifications in 2007. City staff will take over inspections completely by February, Stokes said. Also on the slate for 2007 is the addition of a sidewalk and an expansion of equipment at Robinson Park.

The city utilities department report was given by Gene Fritz. Among the accomplishments of 2006 was the city’s transition out of the cable and Internet business, having recently sold the venture to Comcast. That time and labor intensive transition is expected to be completed in coming months. The sale of the cable system, said Williams, paid off $5 million in debt and offset a loss of $200,000 per year.

“We sold it at the right time,” Williams said. “We got twice the price that we were told we’d get.”

The utilities department expects to centralize customer service for all city departments in 2007 and will enter the initial stages of on-line bill paying, beginning with city court.

Also at the meeting, Mayor Betty Hannah surfaced the idea of establishing an indoor youth center. Fulton County’s current stance of selling the 140-acre Duncan Park at fair market prices puts it out of the city’s reach, she said.

A summary of department reports presented at the retreat can be obtained by contacting Fairburn City Hall at (770) 964-2244.

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Submitted by MWF on Mon, 01/29/2007 - 10:59pm.

Wow! Who knew! Fairburn is a virtual paradise, crime free and all! What a well-kept secret. Ha!

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