Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin made a surprise, drop-in appearance at the June 3 Neighborhood Planning Unit-B (NPU-B) meeting to answer questions from board members and explain the proposed cuts in the 2008-2009 city budget now being considered by city council.

The mayor apparently is making a public relations effort to reach out to the public directly through the NPU meetings to explain the proposed increase in property taxes, increases in city fees for city services and city personnel cuts.

The majority of the meeting, however, centered on a number of questions that came up regarding the budget of the city’s Department of Watershed Management, outdoor watering restrictions and the city’s ‘water police.”

One board member asked how many of the 148 positions that were eliminated from the Watershed Management budget pertained to the water police program and how does the program work?

Deanne Titus, a public information manager with the Department of Watershed Management, reported that none of the eliminated positions were on the Save Water Atlanta Team.

She said customers call in to a dedicated number to leave information about illegal watering and a SWAT member is sent to check the situation and leave a warning notice if appropriate. After being warned, if the customer waters again a charge is placed on the bill ($250 for the first offense after the warning, $500 for the next and $1,000 and disconnection for a third offense).

Those attending the meeting at the Hyland Center of Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, N.E., were told that the present watering restrictions allow: Hand-watering for 25 minutes (hand watering is defined as one person with one garden hose with a spray nozzle that shuts off when it is released); and residents who complete the Outdoor Water Use Registration Program (www.urbanagcouncil.com) may water newly installed landscaping and newly seeded or aerated lawns for 10 weeks; and watering of personal food gardens.

Persons living at even-numbered addresses may water only between 12:01 am and 10 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Those living at odd-numbered addresses may water between 12:01 am and 10 am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

The City asked the State to allow it to implement stronger regulations but was denied.

–John Schaffner