Reapportionment, tax abatement and old East Cobb Middle demo on school board docket

·4 min read

Aug. 19—Cobb school board Chair Randy Scamihorn said he'll ask the board to consider hiring a law firm to assist in drawing new board member district lines as part of the reapportionment process during its board meeting on Thursday.

Scamihorn said the board will also hear from the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority on a proposal to provide Crown Health Care Laundry Services with tax abatements on a development in Austell.

As Cobb school board member Dr. Jaha Howard and Cobb Legislative Delegation Chair and state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, have pointed out on social media, COVID-19 policies and issues did not make the agenda.

Howard said the agenda item did not get enough support from board members, and Allen, who is running to be the next lieutenant governor, questioned why that was the case.

Cobb school board Chair Randy Scamihorn told the MDJ "there was no change or sudden emergency" related to COVID-19 that would necessitate an agenda item for discussion.

Reapportionment help for a politically divided school board

Reapportionment, or the redrawing of lines for political representation at the federal, state and local levels, happens every 10 years, after collection of Census data. The redrawing of lines is generally a closely watched affair, as political observers say the reigning political majority typically draws district lines to its own benefit.

At the local level, governing bodies like the Cobb Board of Commissioners and Cobb school board will get first crack at drawing a map with new district or post boundaries. Their map can then be sent to the Cobb County Legislative Delegation for modification and/or approval. The delegation can choose to use local bodies' maps as a framework and adjust or draw their own. From there, the map is assigned to committees in the state House and Senate.

In the end, the full General Assembly and Gov. Brian Kemp have final say on newly drawn maps.

At the board's July school board meeting, board members began discussions on their own roles in how board posts would be drawn, but with the arrival of the long-delayed 2020 Census data, Scamihorn said he'll bring an item for potential action on Thursday: hiring independent help to assist the divided board in reapportionment proceedings.

"I've found a law firm that does that kind of work for both sides — for Democrats and for Republicans — and ... we'll have a discussion if anybody has any questions," he said. "I don't know that much about reapportionment, and that's why I think it's good if we get somebody that knows how to do that and help us with it."

Scamihorn added "I'm not pushing it," and said he hoped to get an affirmative vote, but if not "I'm all ears as to how the board wants to proceed."

Tax abatements for Austell facility

The South Cobb Redevelopment Authority is expected to bring a presentation on a 105,000-square-foot Crown Health Care Laundry Services facility in Austell that is seeking tax abatements.

The business is seeking a 10-year property tax break from the development authority for the facility at 7801 Third Flag Parkway, which is expected to employ 150 to 200 people, Scamihorn said.

The property in question is not district-owned, but Scamihorn said development authorities typically present these types of proposals to the school board as a courtesy, because the school district receives property tax money, which tax abatements can affect.

Out with the old East Cobb Middle, in with the new Eastvalley Elementary

In other business, the school board is expected to consider approving a $348,000 contract with Augusta-based Chaplin and Sons Clearing and Demolition, Inc., for the demolition of the old East Cobb Middle School. The demolition, expected to be complete in December, makes way for the replacement Eastvalley Elementary School.

The new, 136,110-square-foot east Cobb school, which will be built across the street from Wheeler High School, will have 61 classrooms, compared to 36 at the current facility at 2570 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta, according to district officials.

The new building will accommodate 962 students in grades K-5, district spokeswoman Nan Kiel previously told the MDJ.

The current campus, just over a mile south of its future home, has just over 700 students, according to the latest school enrollment data from the state. That places the school around 200 students over capacity, according to district officials.

School board Vice Chair David Banks, who represents Eastvalley, told the MDJ the new school could be open in 2022.

The Cobb school board meets Thursday for an afternoon work session at 2:30 p.m., breaks for a closed session and then returns for a voting session at 7 p.m. The meetings take place in the board room at the district central office at 514 Glover St., Marietta.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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