With second effort, Cobb DA wins funding for domestic violence center

Mar. 1—MARIETTA — District Attorney Flynn Broady made a hard sell this week in his effort to secure funding for a new domestic violence center in Cobb.

In a lengthy presentation before the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night, Broady touched on everything from the rising rate of abuse and domestic violence locally, to his own childhood experience defending his mother from his abusive father with a baseball bat.

"But she never called the police," Broady said. "We've got to give people a place to go so they can get the help and get away from their abusers."

His efforts — coming about a month after a previous request was put on ice by the board — were successful. The board voted 4-1, with Commissioner Keli Gambrill opposed, to allocate about $460,000 to get the Family Advocacy Center up and running in the coming months.

That appropriation was significantly scaled back from Broady's ask in January of $1.4 million. Commissioners were initially wary of using the county's reserve funds to cover the costs of the center's staff, saying paying for ongoing costs (like personnel) outside of the annual budget isn't county policy.

Some still remained wary of the smaller ask at a work session Monday morning. The DA's office has pitched the center as a "one stop shop" for victims of abuse, where they can meet with nonprofit and law enforcement partners for legal help, counseling, and shelter services.

The center would effectively serve as another service point to connect victims with resources like LiveSafe's shelter in Marietta, which is a partner in the venture.

But at a Monday morning work session prior to Tuesday's meeting, Kim McCoy, who heads the DA's victim witness unit, said several of the community partners would be at the center on an "as-needed" basis due to staffing limitations. That prompted concerns from some board members.

"I was under the impression, similar to Commissioner Gambrill, that it was a one stop shop — as soon as someone enters the door, those services are available," replied Chairwoman Lisa Cupid.

Though McCoy said the staff that will be at the center would be able to quickly connect clients with partners, it was unclear as of Monday whether commissioners would support moving the project forward.

On Tuesday night, Broady came armed with a bevy of statistics to demonstrate the extent of domestic violence and abuse in Cobb. The 911 center receives 49 domestic violence calls a day, he said. Nearly 37,000 domestic violence clients were served from 2018 to 2020, he added. And Cobb has the "dubious distinction" of having the most long-term temporary protective orders issued of any county in the state.

As far as the funding, the board arrived at a compromise whereby it would pay for the startup costs for the facility on Fairground Street in Marietta, just north of South Marietta Parkway. But it declined to pay for an additional $88,000 that would have increased funding for staff.

Gambrill, however, raised concerns about approving the funding when the board has turned down other requests for new programs outside the budget cycle. And she reiterated her point that the "one stop shop" branding was misleading.

Replied Broady, "I think your perception is wrong. We have to remember that everybody does not have to be housed in the building in order to provide services."