Getting ready for the grand opening of SunTrust Park, the new home of the Atlanta Braves, earlier this year kept Cobb County officials pretty busy. So busy that the county didn’t include a key item in its last fiscal budget: traffic control around the stadium.
Cobb County Chairman Mike Boyce has a weekly YouTube series where he talks about what he's been up to. His last video ended this way:
"I know a lot of people are very concerned about the million dollars – the $900,000 – that we've budgeted for public safety around the Braves Stadium," Boyce said.
Boyce was referring to the $900,000 Cobb County commissioners didn’t include in the 2017 fiscal budget for police officers working overtime to direct traffic.
Commissioner Bob Ott who represents the district where SunTrust Park is located said it's because former Chairman Tim Lee and commissioners didn't include it.
“When the previous chairman created the budget, it wasn't done the way it's done now, where the commissioners have been involved extensively,” Ott said. “Back then, basically what happened was the chairman presented a budget to the commissioners to vote on. At the time, more folks were concerned about getting the stadium finished and the road projects and things like that."
He added it's also because the traffic plan for the area was still being developed.
For now, the county said it’s able to afford the oversight because of nearly 30 unfilled officer positions in the Cobb police department.
And instead of getting paid overtime, police officers are shifting their regular hours to work on game days.
The new estimated cost for traffic control is now half the original: $450,000. Boyce said it might drop even more.
"I'm not necessarily convinced we have to use police officers to do [traffic control],” Boyce said. “We may be able to find somebody else at a lower pay scale that can do the same job."
Boyce and Ott took over the shifts of two police officers June 18 -- Father's Day. Ott said an accurate count of the number of officers needed on game days and whether it would be cheaper for the county to contract out traffic control to a private firm can’t be determined until a complete season is over.