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Johns Creek, Alpharetta at Odds Over Ocee Park

Park fees, cross-swearing of police officers disputed.

UPDATED 1:35 p.m.: Alpharetta responds to Johns Creek in a quote added to this story.

Johns Creek and Alpharetta continue to disagree over polices.

Johns Creek City Council members discussed how to deal with requests from the city of Alpharetta regarding non-resident park fees and officer patrols at Monday's work session.

The park, which has been part of the city limits of Johns Creek since the city's inception some five years ago, lies on the border of the two cities and is surrounded by Alpharetta neighborhoods.

In February 2011, Johns Creek approved the implementation of non-resident program fees and priority registration for city parks. The measure came after Kirk Franz, Recreation and Parks director, recommended these changes due to high demand of the parks' programs and to give tax-paying Johns Creek citizens priority.

Arthur Letchas, who was Alpharetta's mayor at the time, asked the council to vote against the non-resident policy for Ocee Park. He referred to an informal "gentlemans' agreement" before the formation of Johns Creek in 2006 in which he and would-be Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker apparently agreed that Johns Creek and Alpharetta residents would be treated equally.

At a recent Alpharetta City Council meeting, the current mayor, David Belle Isle, and council agreed to move forward with plans to initiate talks with Johns Creek regarding fees.

At its Monday work session, the Johns Creek council stipulated that it would agree to talks as long as Alpharetta comes to the table with a cooperative plan. Alpharetta likewise charges non-resident fees to Johns Creek residents for Alpharetta park programs. The Johns Creek council also stipulated that talks must start with only staff members, citing concerns that the issue was becoming politicized.

Alpharetta sent a two-sentence response to Johns Creek officials' comments in this story:

“The City of Alpharetta has requested opportunities to meet with Johns Creek officials to explore opportunities for cross-governmental cooperation that serve the best interests of our respective citizens.  We are awaiting a response to those invitations,” stated the city's official response, sent by Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard.

Also at issue in Ocee Park is the "cross-swearing" of police officers. The city of Alpharetta wishes to have Alpharetta police officers cross-sworn in order to have the authority to patrol the park along with Johns Creek officers.

The Johns Creek City Council says that cross-swearing is and always has been the police chief's call. Due to liability issues, the Johns Creek Police Department does not want to cross-swear Alpharetta officers for the park; i.e., Johns Creek could be held liable for an Alpharetta police officer's mistake.

The cross-swearing issue has now been tied to a Haz-Mat understanding between Johns Creek and Alpharetta. 

Alpharetta has enough Haz-Mat equipment capable of aiding Johns Creek in such an emergency. In an internal memo addressed to Johns Creek's mayor and council (provided to Patch by the city of Johns Creek), Johns Creek City Manager John Kachmar wrote:

"Alpharetta's Mayor has specifically stated that his city will not sign [a Haz-Mat] agreement unless we (Johns Creek) cross-swear his police officers. He has stated that to the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem [councilmember Bev Miller]. It has also been stated as a condition to our Fire Chief."

The memo went on to read:

"Alpharetta is making a serious mistake by linking the cross-swearing and a Haz-Mat MOU [Memorandum of Understanding]. The equipment specific to the Haz Mat MOU may have been funded with Federal and State dollars. Holding the MOU hostage to a police powers issue (on their patrolling our park) could get them in trouble with a FEMA inspector general. The Haz-Mat MOU is about sharing resources in the event of an emergency. Linking that or 'extorting' an arrangement for political purposes could have serious consequences."

Smartie July 30, 2012 at 06:58 PM
To TRAVIS ALLEN on 7/31/12 post: Watch YOUR WORDS! Using words like "Ass" makes you look like one - totally!!! And, it's And, READ before your blast!!! I NEVER said Northview and River Trail were NOT Fulton schools but rather that they carried Duluth address. Of course, they were Fulton schools --- they were in 30097 zip code which was Fulton. But, a sliver of Duluth in 30096 zip code which was in Gwinnett boundary is now a part of JC!!! Also, who ever said Milton existed as an entity??? Where do you read that??? So, be careful to read carefully instead of carelessly before shouting your words!!! Milton was referenced simply to draw out that it used to be in the Alpharetta boundaries. Besides, it's not even the topic point! Who cares about who mowed the lawn for Wills Park in the past? How is that a relevant piece to this discussion board????? 20+years ago, Forsyth County didn't let African Americans into their county while 20+ years ago, 141 used to be a field of greens with romaing cows and the road didn't even exist. Is that relevant to local governments' means of drawing revenues which is the big picture to all this? 20+ years ago, Alpharetta was a horse community. So, should we now talk about who picked up horse manure from Wills Park as well??? Just thought of the horse since you cited the word "Ass" in your post.
Travis Allen July 30, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Just responding to your quote "20 years ago, Milton was a subset of Alpharetta while JC was not even an entity as it just celebrated 5 years of birth!" "Milton was referenced simply to draw out that it used to be in the Alpharetta boundaries." Again, Milton and Johns Creek were never part of Alpharetta. Your lack of full knowledge on the subject is laughable and you're obviously full of hate.
Smartie July 30, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Never said Milton and JC were ever a part of Alpharetta but that Milton's (geographical) area was a subset of Alpharetta until it became of its own. Again, it's besides the point in this discussion board. Milton's not even on the radar of this topic so don't bring it up over and over as if it had some significant contribution to the discussion because it ain't.
Travis Allen July 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Using your logic then, Johns Creek was a subset of Alpharetta and Duluth until it became of its own. I used North Park in Milton as a reverse example to what Alpharetta faces with Ocee Park. North Park is surrounded by Milton on all sides, and not really even close to the border between the two cities. So, it is certain significant to the discussion.
Bob Pepalis July 30, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Actually, Milton is definitely a part of this topic, as Alpharetta's Recreation Commissioner resigned to become the interim director of Milton's Parks and Recreation Commission. And Alpharetta's stated goal is for more cooperation with both Milton and Johns Creek. http://patch.com/A-vW4k

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