City may sell jail to Fulton County

Some members of the Atlanta City Council have indicated they are open to selling the city’s jail to Fulton County, a possibility raised by County Commission Chairman John Eaves during a recent luncheon meeting of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation in Buckhead.

Consideration of such a concept comes on the heals of a March report by the city’s internal audit office that found Atlanta’s Corrections Department overspent its budget by about $4 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008.

Atlanta, like most big cities, is suffering financially, battling large budget deficits that have caused layoffs, furloughs, hiring freezes, the shutdown of much of City Hall one day a week and some city service cuts.

The audit sparked interest among some Atlanta officials and county leaders about the city selling its jail to the county, which is under a federal consent decree to ease overcrowding and improve other conditions at the county jail. Atlanta has abundant space at its jail.

The city’s corrections budget is $38.5 million.

About 60 percent of the 1,044 inmates housed daily at the city’s jail are federal or county inmates. The county pays the city $68 per day per inmate. The city jail, on Peachtree Street near I-20, has 1,314 beds.

Nonemergency calls plague 911 system

Some 55 percent of the 1.1 million calls to Atlanta’s 911 emergency service last year had little or nothing to do with an emergency. They might have been about a barking dog or no water service, for example. The result is a slowing of the response times in cases where people have real emergencies.

Atlanta does not have a separate telephone line, such as a 311 number, to handle nonemergency calls. DeKalb County has such a line, as do cities such as Charlotte and Miami.

Some say it is time Atlanta had such a system, but the cost is one factor holding it up. For instance, Cobb County is spending $2.5 million to start its own line.

At least for now, such a system is not in the city budget.

Atlanta may sue lenders over house foreclosures

Atlanta is considering joining a list of big cities that are taking mortgage lenders to court.

City leaders believe that risky practices by banks and other lenders largely caused the large number of foreclosures in Atlanta, which in turn resulted in financial problems at City Hall.

The City Council voted April 20 to ask an outside law firm whether the city can sue some of those mortgage lenders.

The foreclosures hurt the city because it cannot collect property taxes on those homes. Vacant homes also are used by vagrants, requiring additional police patrols of the houses.

Baltimore, Cleveland and Memphis have filed lawsuits against some lenders