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CEO pitches moving DeKalb gov't offices out of Decatur | News

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CEO pitches moving DeKalb gov't offices out of Decatur
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DECATUR, GA -- In DeKalb County, Memorial Drive has been a challenge for decades -- a busy corridor whose potential mostly exceeds the its scatter-shot commercial reality. But DeKalb interim CEO Lee May says he has a vision for Memorial Drive.

"It's my vision to turn it into our 'downtown DeKalb,'" May said during a speech to the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Thursday.

To anchor that development, May wants to move DeKalb County's government offices out of downtown Decatur to a mostly undeveloped plot of land DeKalb county owns off of Memorial Drive.

All this comes at a time when newly forming cities in DeKalb County are shrinking the footprint of the county government.

"My initial impression is it's not a very smart idea," said Bill Floyd, former mayor of Decatur and executive director of the DeKalb Municipal Association. "Especially if we get two or three new cities, their approach toward their government in the county ought to be different than it is today." There are moves afoot in the legislature to incorporate cities in the Tucker and LaVista Hills areas.

May's vision is drawing plenty of skepticism.

"DeKalb County is undergoing some real challenges now with the cities and the annexations," said former DeKalb CEO Liane Levetan. "I think that this really has to be looked at very very carefully."

State Rep. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) says the move seems ill-suited to a government that already has a crisis of confidence.

"I think (May's) heart is in the right place," said Millar, who agrees that Memorial Drive needs help. "But I can't view this as a priority for DeKalb County at this point."

May said that despite the skepticism, "it's always a good time to advance a vision."

May says moving the county government offices make sense in light of cityhood efforts. The move, he says, would make them more centrally located for those residents likely to remain in unincorporated DeKalb. The site would be accessible to I-285 and MARTA's Kensington rail station.

May does not propose moving the county courthouse, which would remain in downtown Decatur.

"We do need a new government center that is more accessible to the total population," May said.

And May wants to start the county's move to Memorial Drive this year in what he hopes will be a public-private partnership. The public money, he says, is as yet unspecified.


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