"Moody plans to continue to bid on construction projects while he is on the committee"
"Pat Pope is friends with Moody and officials at Turner Construction, her husband has told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Moody, who declined to comment for this article, has worked on 19 DeKalb school construction projects since 2003, collecting nearly $40 million, documents show."
"H.J. Russell & Company and its excellent staff repeatedly met or exceeded all of our expectations during the pre-construction, construction and post-construction phases on several school projects totaling over $53 million dollars. Many of these projects had significant cost and sequencing challenges that Russell worked through in a collaborative manner with the school system and the design team."
Stanley J. Pritchett, Sr., Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent
DeKALB COUNTY SCHOOLS
But read this, and ask yourself, would you give this company millions of SPLOST dollars?
Majority ownership of Bethel is controlled by H.J. Russell and Company, a massive real estate development and property management firm based in Atlanta. This sets Bethel apart from other local public housing, which is managed by the Athens Housing Authority, a seemingly well-funded and sufficiently staffed agency whose only job is to operate and maintain public housing in Athens—except for Bethel. H.J. Russell, on the other hand, is an absentee landlord with what can only be described as divided attention. The company’s web page proudly announces its high-profile construction and development projects for multi-billion dollar global corporations, while Bethel appears to be an afterthought. Big-ticket crime prevention needs, such as an entrance gate that actually works (Bethel's gate opening onto College Avenue routinely sits wide open in disrepair), are rarely met, if at all. Even simple weather stripping is difficult to convince Russell to provide: residents complain about inexplicably high heating bills (as much as $300–$400 per winter month for the small units) while cold air enters unhindered through cracks around doors and windows.
To be fair, Russell has pitched in lately on G.E.D. and “leadership” classes for Bethel residents, spending a reported $16,000 on the educational measures. The threat of closure—loudest in early 2009, when ACC Police Chief Jack Lumpkin and County Attorney Bill Berryman sent a letter to H.J. Russell threatening to condemn the property if the company didn't take measures to reduce crime there—seems to have managed to loosen Russell’s purse strings somewhat, but the company still shies from the substantial construction costs involved in assuredly securing the neighborhood. The residents agree that the current gate’s design is flawed, as its large swinging doors act as sails in the wind and are often wrenched open. A new, sliding gate is needed, they say. Others suggest a more ambitious plan, with the gate moved from its College Avenue location. But seeing as residents have waited for over a year for minor repairs on the existing gate, it is unlikely that Russell will eagerly step up with a final, expensive replacement. To hire an off-duty police officer as a guard, the group agrees, is the only sure way to ensure that outside crime stays outside. Russell did employ off-duty ACC police officers for a short time with great success, but the company soon ended the practice, citing costs.
Do you trust this Board of Education and this Central Office to properly, responsibly and ethically spend hundreds of millions of your tax dollars for another SPLOST?