While north DeKalb cities prepare for votes that may set new municipal boundaries, DeKalb County has put on pause its decision on whether to locate a new county police precinct beside DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
“It’s not off the table,” said Burke Brennan, DeKalb County’s chief communications officer. “We’re still evaluating that site.”
Brennan added, “I think the most accurate thing I can say is that is still our top site.”
The county is searching for a new home for its north police precinct, now on Ashford-Dunwoody Road across from Perimeter Mall in the city of Dunwoody. Since the city of Dunwoody created its own police force, DeKalb’s precinct has actually been inside the Dunwoody police jurisdiction. Dunwoody officers now patrol areas that used to be served by the north precinct.
Last year, it looked fairly certain that the county police would move to the airport site, which is in unincorporated DeKalb, between Clairmont Road and Young and Bragg streets.
The site was chosen to serve a north DeKalb police district as it is configured today, said DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader, who represents the area.
But, since the site was chosen, the proposed city of Brookhaven has moved from an idea to a distinct possibility. On July 31, Brookhaven voters will decide whether to incorporate a new city in the area. Then, in November, other homeowners nearby will vote on whether their neighborhoods should be annexed into Chamblee.
Success in either referendum would trim the area that officers from the north DeKalb precinct would patrol. Chamblee already has its own police force and Brookhaven would eventually form its own as well.
“We’re up in the air,” said DeKalb Public Safety Director William Miller. “We try to locate precincts centrally in districts.”
Rader said a decision depends on the coming elections.
“If the north precinct patrol area changes, we need to rethink,” Rader said. “We’ll wait until both [votes], if Brookhaven goes through … Then we’ll probably resume planning.”
In that planning phase, the county will figure out what size building the north precinct would need and where it should be. The aim is to cover population and call volume evenly countywide.
Rader said the PDK site “is not on hold as a punitive matter. It’s a matter of being prudent with public funds.”
The county signed a deal with the Federal Aviation Administration for a small airport plot, and, according to Miller, is already making payments for the property. The targeted 3 to 5 acres are part of a bigger piece of land the FAA bought as part of its noise abatement policy.
DeKalb applied money to the land buy from a Recovery Zone Bond, an instrument that’s part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bonds provide cheaper financing to cities and counties for certain projects, but that federal money is tied to the PDK site.
If the police decide not to move to PDK, Miller said, then they would start looking at the plot and the payments to figure out what to do with the partially-purchased acreage.
A site decision could come this summer or fall, if voters turn down a city of Brookhaven.
Rader said no other sites for the precinct have been named. Miller said the same thing, but added that they are looking at land in the general area that the county already owns.
Yet, even when the north precinct moves, DeKalb police may continue using the current building across from Perimeter Mall in some capacity. Decades ago, the property was given to the police on the condition it be used by law enforcement. If the police do not use it, it goes back to the donors.