New Buckhead city bills could ‘doom’ Atlanta public training facility project

Lawmakers in Georgia are discussing possibly making Buckhead its own city.
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 6:32 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The push to make Buckhead its own city, a movement fueled by public safety concerns, could ironically doom a $90 million state-of-the-art police and fire facility meant to train the city’s officers and first responders.

Senate Bills 113 and 114 passed the Committee on State and Local Governmental Operations on Monday, moving the possibility of secession one step closer to legislative approval.

A movement tried but failed to grant Buckhead cityhood last year, lacking support from the key executive and legislative leaders.

The new bills lay out plans for divvying up assets, including buildings, land, and governmental services if Buckhead were to go through with divorcing the city of Atlanta.

If that were to happen, Buckhead would need to purchase key infrastructure like water treatment plants, police and fire precincts, and even parks from the city, and would be able to do so for pennies on the dollar per the new bills.

But none of the authors of either piece of legislation actually represent the Buckhead area, said Georgia Senator Jason Esteves, who does.

“We have a bill, or two bills, that were sponsored by nine senators who don’t live anywhere close to Buckhead and have not been voted on by Buckhead citizens as I have,” said Sen. Esteves. “These two bills would only cause more issues, they would not actually solve the issues around public safety and public services that our residents are really concerned about.”

Esteves says Buckhead makes up about 25% of the metro-Atlanta population but accounts for about 30% of tax revenue. Without that contribution, he’s unsure the city of Atlanta will be able to pay for the new and controversial facility known by opponents as “Cop City.”

“Senate Bill 113 expressly stops that project,” he said. “The city would not want to invest in a training facility that may have to be sold later on.”

“The irony is not lost on me that people who are claiming public safety as their reason for a Buckhead City would actually be the cause that stops a training facility that is meant to help improve public safety,” he continued. “We have to think about these consequences.”

Public safety has been the rallying cry for supporters of the secession movement.

Hours after the bills passed committee, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum addressed the Atlanta City Counsel at their public safety meeting and discussed crime in the Buckhead rea.

“We have six zones in the city, and a well sought after prestige is which zone can have the crime reduction award for the year,” said Schierbaum. “That will, this year, go to zone two which had a 14% reduction in crime in the Buckhead neighborhoods.”

Buckhead’s zone also won the award last year. Chief Schierbaum said he was unaware of any zone winning the accolade in back-to-back years.

“Last year they won the crime reduction award for the city with a 7% reduction in crime,” he said.