NORTH METRO ATLANTA, Ga. — Cities appear ready to settle their feud with Fulton County over $104 million in federal relief aid for expenses incurred due to COVID-19.
The coalition of 13 cities is petitioning Fulton County for a greater share of the money it received back in March. The county originally offered to release $2.5 million, but after cities threatened suit, the offer has now been raised to $25 million. The money would be divvied up among the cities based on population.
The funds are part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act signed into law by President Trump in March.
So far, about half the cities in the coalition have agreed to terms the county issued Sept. 21.
Sandy Springs and Milton were set to discuss the offer this week.
The Roswell City Council met in special session Friday, agreeing to the terms, but not with Mayor Lori Henry blasting Fulton County’s attitude in the process as “heavy-handed.”
Henry said Fulton County’s current leadership has set relations with the cities back 15 years, erasing strides made by former Chairman John Eaves.
One positive, she said, is that all the mayors in the coalition, plus the small city of Mountain Park, will be united in confronting Fulton County in any future disagreements.
Roswell is expected to receive about $3.9 million in the disbursement.
Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker was no less upset with the final settlement.
“Fulton County screws all its residents equally,” he said Friday, a day after the Johns Creek City Council signed off on the agreement.
Johns Creek approved the document on Thursday. still be ratified by Fulton commissioners because cities demanded adjustments to the dates the county set for submitting eligible expenses. He said quick negotiations with County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts assured him the county would allow expenses incurred from March through Dec. 15.
The county’s original proposal allowed expenses through Nov. 15.
Alpharetta approved the agreement at its regular City Council meeting Sept. 21. City Attorney Sam Thomas said the core elements seemed to satisfy most municipal officials he’d heard from, but the original dates the county set for eligible expenses put the squeeze on all the cities.
“They took a month away from us in terms of where we could spend this money,” Thomas said. “And we really need that money.”
While Alpharetta accepted the terms amid some grumbling, the debate was more fevered in Johns Creek.
Council members Stephanie Endres and Chris Coughlin said they did not want to see the money lingering in the city’s coffers. They sought assurances from their colleagues that the city’s anticipated allotment of $3.5 million would go primarily to those hurt most by the government’s actions during the pandemic.
Coughlin said he wants the money to go directly to the businesses damaged by government mandates issued during the height of the crisis. Endres agreed.
“I can tell you that if we end up paying ourselves, after the tax increase we had, and we have all that excess capacity, I don’t want to support that,” she said. “If it gets back to those businesses that we directly injured, then I’ll support it.”
Mayor Bodker said no one is interested in padding the city’s pockets, and he said Johns Creek’s actions to limit operations of certain businesses, like restaurants, were taken in response to state guidelines. He also pointed out that all expenses incurred since March by the Department of Public Safety are eligible for reimbursement through the CARES Act.
Bodker said he wouldn’t be painted into a corner on a vote about whether or not to accept money from the county.
The majority on the council agreed that the proper action right now is to accept the money, then work out details for how it can be distributed to local residents and businesses who suffered most during the pandemic.