By Valerie J. Morgan
After more than a year of infighting and negotiations, the Stonecrest City Council voted 4 to 2 to award a $3.3 million contract to Grice Consulting Group, LLC to manage the city’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project.
The vote marked yet another round in the contentious tug-of-war over Stonecrest’s SPLOST management program, which has been in limbo for over a year and a half. Road paving and other infrastructure improvement projects have stalled because of the continuing battle with Grice.
Councilmembers George Turner, Jazzmin Cobble, Diane Adoma and Rob Turner supported the most recent vote for Grice, while Mayor Jason Lary and Councilman Jimmy Clanton opposed the measure.
Lary said the council made the decision to approve the contract, despite the citizens’ oversight committee and staff’s recommendation to move forward with staff members’ oversight. The committee urged the City Council to let staff manage for now until the city receives bids in order to take advantage of the warm weather expected in the next couple of months.
“We’re doing this the wrong way and you all know it,” Lary said at the City Council meeting. “…You’re going to have to answer to the people that know for sure that we could be paving roads with money that you all are trying to give to a vendor that can’t even do SPLOST. Period. We don’t owe him a contract. We don’t owe him any business… I’m disappointed in how we’re handling the people’s money.”
With the Feb. 11 approval, the council asked the city’s attorneys to draft an enforceable SPLOST service contract that will not exceed $38,878 per month for not more than 72 months. Councilman George Turner made the motion, which also included an additional contract for Grice to manage the city’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan for $480,000. The council asked that the drafts are ready by Feb. 18.
Councilmember George Turner said he made the motion to award the contracts to Grice in part because he believes the city’s dealings with Grice were muddied after the firm invoiced the city for pre-SPLOST work performed in the fall of 2017. DeKalb County voters approved the SPLOST referendum in November 2017.
The council voted unanimously to retain Grice on Aug. 21, 2017. After that, Grice invoiced the city a total of $162,000 over a three-month period including $20,000 for setting up community meetings, city officials said. The city settled and paid Grice $40,000 for the pre-SPLOST work.
Councilmember George Turner, however, said the matter should have come back to the City Council before negotiating with Grice.
“I don’t know what happened but for some reason, there was a movement to retreat from that agreement,” said Turner. “I made the motion to award the contracts because I believe it was the right thing to do. It was the preponderance of evidence. There was just so much involved and you have to look at a lot of things: the contract and whether or not it was enforceable, recommendations, the scope of work, all of that over the last year and a half.”
Mayor Lary said the city is moving forward to begin fixing potholes that have plagued residents now that the city has received funding from the Georgia Department of Transportation. More on that story on page 3.