DeKalb CEO gives State of the County address

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond gave the State of the County address on Wednesday, April 27, at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County CEO delivered the State of the County address on Wednesday, April 27, in which he highlighted some of the county’s accomplishments and areas that need more work.

The theme of the speech, held at Peachtree DeKalb Airport, was “The Sky is the Limit” and Thurmond focused on the county’s ongoing efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic while investing in infrastructure to support economic growth and prosperity.

Thurmond thanked all the county employees for the work, especially those who are front-line workers like police officers, firefighters, watershed employees, roads and drain, and sanitation workers.

“These 3,000 men and women never went home when the rest of us were isolated and protected,” Thurmond said. “The folks who were picking up the garbage, the folks who were running Scott Candler Water Plant, the people who were managing Snapfinger and Pole-Bridge, the folks who were paving the streets never went home.”

His list of recent accomplishments include:

– Renewing the county’s special purpose local option sales tax, which is a one-cent sale tax that provides funding for capital projects and other long-lived improvements. The SPLOST was adopted by voters in November 2017 and runs until 2024. It is expected to generate $636 million between 2018 and 2024, according to the county website.

– Turning a $27 million structural seven-year deficit into a $128 million surplus.

– Negotiating a new $1.2 billion consent decree and invested $750 million already to fix the county’s long neglected sewer and water system.

In September 2021, a federal judged approved a change to the consent decree governing how the county will repair its sewer system, giving DeKalb an additional seven yeas to complete the work.

State and federal environmental regulators brought a lawsuit against DeKalb County in 2010, saying that repeated sewer spills violated the Clean Water Act and other regulations. Those involved entered into a formal agreement the following year, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The county, for years, failed to make significant progress on the repairs and was nowhere near completing the requirements of the original consent decree by June 2020. The modified agreement gives DeKalb until Dec. 20, 2027, to complete repairs in priority areas, the AJC reported.

“We could talk about all of the progress that’s been made, but I choose not to,” Thurmond said. “We’ve come a long way from where we started.”

He used part of his speech to focus on the work not yet done. Thurmond said the county’s homicide rate is a concern. The rate has remained flat year after year, but one senseless death of a person is one too many, he added.

“The story is almost always the same — Black male suspect, Black male victim, 18, 19, 20, 30 [years old] over and over again,” Thurmond said.

He plans to go to the board of commissioners requesting $1 million and request for proposals from nonprofits, churches and organizations that are already working in the community.

“Rather than start new programs, we’re going to strengthen the programs that we have,” Thurmond said. “We can not sit by and let this bloodshed go unaddressed.”

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