By Tova Fruchtman
The BUC, the free shuttle service that runs throughout Buckhead every eight to 15 minutes on weekdays, is facing a dire funding situation that jeopardizes its continuation.
About 60 residents attending the annual meeting of the North Buckhead Civics Association heard Scotty Greene, the executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), a board, made up of six commercial property owners and three Atlanta City Council representatives, report that the federal program that paid 90 percent of the cost of running the BUC in no longer paying for it, and now the CID is picking up that cost.
“We’re out of money,” Greene told the NBCA.
He said they are trying to work with Marta and look at other ways to fund the program, but time is of the essence.
“I don’t think the Buckhead CID can sustain the BUC at the level we are for much more than three to four months,” he said.
Atlanta City Council member Howard Shook complimented the civic association’s President Gordon Certain for the agenda he constructed for the organization’s March 27 annual meeting at Wieuca Road Baptist Church.
Shook, who represents the district that includes North Buckhead, said Certain had managed to address what Shook considers “the holy trinity of topics” — crime, taxes and traffic.
Greene explained that the Buckhead CID uses a three mill property tax from 300 commercial property owners to lobby for, plan and design community improvement projects that the city would or could not do.
Besides running the BUC the organization also pays for police officers to direct traffic during rush-hour, purchased cameras for the police to use to monitor Buckhead in partnership with the Buckhead Alliance, and has worked to put together a vision for the Peachtree Corridor (www.peachtreecorridor.com).
Greene described the importance of the Peachtree Corridor project, and NBCA members were given a summary of the study in a pamphlet that looked like a Peachtree street sign. The study was given to Atlanta City Council members at their most recent meeting, Greene said, pointing out that the project will cost $1 billion over the next 25 years and the elected officials as representatives of the community will need to decide if the “vision is worth the added expense.”
“It’s a very ambitious visionary plan, and something that we can be excited about for the next 25 years,” he said.
As the CID works towards the new vision of Peachtree, they are also looking at other ways to improve transportation, Greene said. The group has just commissioned a 12-month, $200,000 traffic mobility study of Piedmont from Roswell Road south to I-85.
Greene said that thousands of cars travel the surface streets in Buckhead each day between I-85 and SR400 “unnecessarily,” and he said the study will place a “bright light” on the need to connect the two highways.
Members of the community can sign up to attend meetings about the study in their area on the CID Website, www.buckheadcid.com, Greene said.
Major James Sellers, commander of the Atlanta Police Department Zone 2 precinct also addressed the NBCA.
He spoke about the 11.6 percent reduction in crime in the precinct over the past year and about what the police are doing to address the recent rash of ring robberies in North Buckhead.
Cooperation between the Buckhead Alliance (of which Greene is also the executive director) and the Buckhead CID helped the police department reduce crime by placing cameras in the Buckhead Village, Major Sellers said.
The tactic will now be implemented in the shopping centers where the ring robbers have been hitting, near the Piedmont and Peachtree intersection, he said.
“They’ve solved all kinds of crimes,” Major Sellers said of the cameras.
As for the ring robber he said that the group would “hear some good news on that investigation real soon.”
But he said, community members still need to be aware to help stop crime.
Making sure not to leave items in the car, or garage doors open, calling neighbors to remind them if they’ve done those things, and reporting suspicious people to the police are all ways to help, Major Sellers said.
“We don’t get offended if you see as suspicious person and you call and we have to go out there,” he said.
He also said cooperation from business and property owners will help stop crime. For example, having property owners take responsibility for crimes that occur in their parking lots and asking them to increase security.
“We’re definalty going in the right direction,” Major Sellers said.
Attendees of the NBCA annual meeting also heard about the services the Land Use and Zoning Committee offers to citizens in North Buckhead from the committee chair Walda Lavroff.
“We are here to help you,” Lavroff said.
Atlanta City Council members Shook, Mary Norwood, and H. Lamar Willis spoke to the group.
And Traffic Committee Chair Robert Sarkissian addressed the group with some new ideas for helping traffic.
At the end of the meeting members of the NBCA voted for next year’s board.
Kay Collins, joined the NBCA that evening, although she said she has been coming to meetings for five years and has lived in Buckhead for 23.
She said the meetings are quite worthwhile, because most of the things discussed aren’t found in larger news outlets.
“I’m interested in the community I live in and want to know more about what is going on,” she said.