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Ethics board denies Invest Atlanta request for Falcons stadium tickets

The city’s Ethics Board has denied a request by Invest Atlanta for free, premium Mercedes-Benz Stadium tickets. They would have been used to attract Atlanta business interests.

The board ruled on the July request Thursday night, after a contentious debate over the tickets which would have been granted to the city’s economic development arm. Invest Atlanta had argued their seating request was not for free tickets, given its large MBS investment through bond money.

The decision was tabled for two months, while the Ethics Board fought a City Council proposal that would have dismantled the current board. The original proposal would have allowed the mayor and council final approval of the independent board. Members are  nominated through entities such as a law firms and universities.

RELATED STORIES:

Some board and council members believed the proposal was in retaliation for the Ethics Board involvement with the Invest Atlanta decision.

That caused a nearly five-hour debate during a recent City Council meeting.

Ethics Board members will not comment on their decision. They will draft a letter explaining the denial in the coming days.

State fire marshal defends opening GSU stadium with sprinkler code violations

The Georgia State Fire Marshal tells Channel 2 Action News that a report detailing fire protection system problems at the GSU Stadium is not as concerning as it may look, and people are only allowed in areas that have been brought up to code in recent months.

Dwayne Garriss sat down with Channel 2’s Nicole Carr to review a fire protection system report issued for the GSU Stadium in August.

The report details nearly 700 recommendations to recall, repair and/or replace sprinklers. It also identifies about 60 areas that had no sprinklers at all. The stadium’s backup pump that supplies water to sprinklers did not meet industry standards, either.

[READ: Inspection uncovers serious safety problems at Georgia State Stadium]

Garriss issued the stadium a conditional Certificate of Occupancy, restricting visitor access to certain areas, and requiring a Fire Watch system while other parts of the stadium are brought up to code.

The university is in the middle of securing consultants and contractors to fix the issues in order of importance as they move through phased renovations on their new property. They purchased the former Turner Field in January through a deal brokered by the Fulton County Recreation Authority.

“If the building was occupied completely, then I’d say about 30 percent of it (the report) would be of concern," Garriss told Carr. “But the building phase that’s occupied right now? I have absolutely no concern.”

INSPECTORS AND THE STATE

The inspection was completed by a Dacula-based fire protection agency. Garriss pointed out that inspectors and the state are not necessarily interpreting fire code the same way, nor do they have the same motives.

“One, you have an industry who makes money by having installations and doing work, and (with the other) ... you have a person who has no interest in the value of the building other than the protection of life,” he said. “I’m not saying that what is written is incorrect, but how you read it and how you can interpret it, it is very important to understand what is a requirement, and what is a “should” -- a recommendation.”

TRENDING STORIES:

Garriss said many of the recall recommendations are based on manufacturer suggestions, not federally mandated instructions.

“Even in the code itself, it says a recommended (recall/replacement) ‘should’ be remedied versus they ‘shall’ be,” he said referencing state fire code.

“To the person sitting in the stands that says, 'OK, to me that’s a play on words when it comes to my safety,' what do you say?” Carr asked.

“Well as a code official ... ’should’ is very specifically spelled out in the code that says it’s strictly a recommendation and not a requirement,” Garriss answered.

SAFETY GUARANTEED

Garriss said fans should rest assured that they’re safe if they are allowed to enter certain parts of the stadium. Lower-level seating, office space and locker rooms were a part of Phase I renovations, and immediately brought up to code prior to the state issuing a Conditional Certificate of Occupancy, he said.

That Occupancy Certificate allows the stadium to operate while using Fire Watch, a protocol system that requires several staff members, including the GSU Fire Marshal, to man a panel alert system and start evacuation procedures in the case of a fire emergency.

Because that panel system is also in question inside the inspection report, it’s physically manned by someone during GSU events.

There are no signs or barriers to block off restricted areas that aren’t up to code, because Fire Watch is in place, a university spokeswoman said. She added fire alarms and smoke detectors are all in good condition.

Garriss said he is comfortable with the city’s water supply and pressure is adequate to service the working sprinklers while the backup pump is brought up to code. He says pressure to open the state-owned property for Panthers football was not a motivator for issuing the occupancy certificate.

“Pressure or not, I still have an Oath of Office I’m responsible for and my whole charge is protection of life and property and I’ve got to be able to sleep at night,” Garriss said.

NEXT STEPS

State inspectors won’t return to the stadium to conduct another occupational certificate inspection until it’s required by law next year. That because of staffing issues, Garris said. His office has 16 inspectors for the entire state.

It’s unclear how many of the issues were inherited from the time when the Braves owned Turner Field, and how many issues occurred during the period before the sale, as the stadium was unoccupied.

Channel 2 is in the process of requesting past inspection reports.

GSU officials hope to have the necessary upgrades and renovations done by December. The bidding process for that job continues, with contractors surveying the stadium property as recently as this week.

State fire marshal defends opening GSU stadium with sprinkler code violations

The Georgia State Fire Marshal tells Channel 2 Action News that a report detailing fire protection system problems at the GSU Stadium is not as concerning as it may look, and people are only allowed in areas that have been brought up to code in recent months.

Dwayne Garriss sat down with Channel 2’s Nicole Carr to review a fire protection system report issued for the GSU Stadium in August.

The report details nearly 700 recommendations to recall, repair and/or replace sprinklers. It also identifies about 60 areas that had no sprinklers at all. The stadium’s backup pump that supplies water to sprinklers did not meet industry standards, either.

[READ: Inspection uncovers serious safety problems at Georgia State Stadium]

Garriss issued the stadium a conditional Certificate of Occupancy, restricting visitor access to certain areas, and requiring a Fire Watch system while other parts of the stadium are brought up to code.

The university is in the middle of securing consultants and contractors to fix the issues in order of importance as they move through phased renovations on their new property. They purchased the former Turner Field in January through a deal brokered by the Fulton County Recreation Authority.

“If the building was occupied completely, then I’d say about 30 percent of it (the report) would be of concern," Garriss told Carr. “But the building phase that’s occupied right now? I have absolutely no concern.”

INSPECTORS AND THE STATE

The inspection was completed by a Dacula-based fire protection agency. Garriss pointed out that inspectors and the state are not necessarily interpreting fire code the same way, nor do they have the same motives.

“One, you have an industry who makes money by having installations and doing work, and (with the other) ... you have a person who has no interest in the value of the building other than the protection of life,” he said. “I’m not saying that what is written is incorrect, but how you read it and how you can interpret it, it is very important to understand what is a requirement, and what is a “should” -- a recommendation.”

TRENDING STORIES:

Garriss said many of the recall recommendations are based on manufacturer suggestions, not federally mandated instructions.

“Even in the code itself, it says a recommended (recall/replacement) ‘should’ be remedied versus they ‘shall’ be,” he said referencing state fire code.

“To the person sitting in the stands that says, 'OK, to me that’s a play on words when it comes to my safety,' what do you say?” Carr asked.

“Well as a code official ... ’should’ is very specifically spelled out in the code that says it’s strictly a recommendation and not a requirement,” Garriss answered.

SAFETY GUARANTEED

Garriss said fans should rest assured that they’re safe if they are allowed to enter certain parts of the stadium. Lower-level seating, office space and locker rooms were a part of Phase I renovations, and immediately brought up to code prior to the state issuing a Conditional Certificate of Occupancy, he said.

That Occupancy Certificate allows the stadium to operate while using Fire Watch, a protocol system that requires several staff members, including the GSU Fire Marshal, to man a panel alert system and start evacuation procedures in the case of a fire emergency.

Because that panel system is also in question inside the inspection report, it’s physically manned by someone during GSU events.

There are no signs or barriers to block off restricted areas that aren’t up to code, because Fire Watch is in place, a university spokeswoman said. She added fire alarms and smoke detectors are all in good condition.

Garriss said he is comfortable with the city’s water supply and pressure is adequate to service the working sprinklers while the backup pump is brought up to code. He says pressure to open the state-owned property for Panthers football was not a motivator for issuing the occupancy certificate.

“Pressure or not, I still have an Oath of Office I’m responsible for and my whole charge is protection of life and property and I’ve got to be able to sleep at night,” Garriss said.

NEXT STEPS

State inspectors won’t return to the stadium to conduct another occupational certificate inspection until it’s required by law next year. That because of staffing issues, Garris said. His office has 16 inspectors for the entire state.

It’s unclear how many of the issues were inherited from the time when the Braves owned Turner Field, and how many issues occurred during the period before the sale, as the stadium was unoccupied.

Channel 2 is in the process of requesting past inspection reports.

GSU officials hope to have the necessary upgrades and renovations done by December. The bidding process for that job continues, with contractors surveying the stadium property as recently as this week.

Popular Gwinnett wing restaurant fails health inspection

A wing franchise restaurant in Loganville failed a health inspection in part because of cockroaches in the kitchen.

After Buffalo’s Café on Athens Highway in Gwinnett County got a 45 inspection score Sept. 19, it closed for a day. The staff used that time to thoroughly clean and correct violations.

One customer, William Gee says he won’t eat there after learning about the score of 45. He thinks there’s a health issue.

TRENDING STORIES:

Violations included live roaches and flies in the kitchen, food items not held cold enough and observed dented cans.

The franchiser for Buffalo’s Café sent Channel’s Carol Sbarge an e-mail statement that reads, “We immediately met with the franchisee and ordered a corrective plan that brings the restaurant up to our standards and the health department’s standards.”

Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts, Inc. says the restaurant closed Thursday to implement an action plan. It reopened Friday morning.

The restaurant was inspected twice this year before failing one. It got a 98 and a 92.   This Buffalo’s Café will be re-inspected this month. We’ll let you know what the new score is.

Popular Gwinnett wing restaurant fails health inspection

A wing franchise restaurant in Loganville failed a health inspection in part because of cockroaches in the kitchen.

After Buffalo’s Café on Athens Highway in Gwinnett County got a 45 inspection score Sept. 19, it closed for a day. The staff used that time to thoroughly clean and correct violations.

One customer, William Gee says he won’t eat there after learning about the score of 45. He thinks there’s a health issue.

TRENDING STORIES:

Violations included live roaches and flies in the kitchen, food items not held cold enough and observed dented cans.

The franchiser for Buffalo’s Café sent Channel’s Carol Sbarge an e-mail statement that reads, “We immediately met with the franchisee and ordered a corrective plan that brings the restaurant up to our standards and the health department’s standards.”

Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts, Inc. says the restaurant closed Thursday to implement an action plan. It reopened Friday morning.

The restaurant was inspected twice this year before failing one. It got a 98 and a 92.   This Buffalo’s Café will be re-inspected this month. We’ll let you know what the new score is.

Former PE teacher arrested again, accused of sexually assaulting student

For the second time in a month, a former Union County middle school physical education teacher was arrested on allegations she sexually assaulted a student. 

Shawnetta D. Reece, 40, of Blairsville, has been accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old high school senior in 2015, according to a GBI release. 

Officials discovered the additional allegations while investigating Reece’s Aug. 15 arrest. In that case, she was charged with child molestation and sexual assault after investigators said they found evidence that she engaged in “sexual conduct” with a 15-year-old. That student was entering ninth grade at the time of the allegations. 

Upon completion of the investigation, the case will be provided to the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney for prosecution. 

TRENDING STORIES:

More than 1,000 expected at funeral for firefighter killed in crash

A local fire chief says his department is trying to heal after the loss of one of its own.

Jacob Hammond, 21, died in a motorcycle crash on Bannister Road in Forsyth County early Thursday. Investigators say he lost control on a curve just after 1 a.m.

“It’s the call you never want to get,” Sandy Springs Fire Chief Keith Sanders said.

He says his department lost a hero.

“We'll wipe the tears. We'll have a lot more. But we're a family that's going to stick together -- through the good, through the bad,” Sanders said.

Hammond, who joined the department 2 1/2 years ago when he was 18, was one of Sanders’ first hires. During our interview Friday, Sanders wore a black bar across his badge.

“He was so willing to do whatever it took. I'm telling you, I don't care which team he worked with, he gelled,” Sanders said.

TRENDING STORIES:

Grief counselors were available at the department for anyone having a tough time coping with Hammond’s death.

“We don't fight fire alone, we don't leave any of our guys alone, and we're not gonna be alone in this journey,” Sanders said.

On Truck 54, his team saved a spot for him with his gear.

“We are going to take one minute, one hour and one day at a time, and we’re going to cherish that memory,” Sanders said.

More than 1,000 people. Including firefighters from across the state, are expected at Hammond’s funeral at noon Monday at the First Baptist Church in Cumming.

Hammond’s friends are asking people with trucks and jeeps to line the street outside the church and wave U.S. flags in honor of their friend, who loved big trucks.

“He was an American. He loved this country. He loved this community. They need to remember him as the hero he was,” Ryan McMullen said. “He loved helping people. He was not afraid to put his life on the line for his community, and that's how people should remember him.”

More than 1,000 expected at funeral for firefighter killed in crash

A local fire chief says his department is trying to heal after the loss of one of its own.

Jacob Hammond, 21, died in a motorcycle crash on Bannister Road in Forsyth County early Thursday. Investigators say he lost control on a curve just after 1 a.m.

“It’s the call you never want to get,” Sandy Springs Fire Chief Keith Sanders said.

He says his department lost a hero.

“We'll wipe the tears. We'll have a lot more. But we're a family that's going to stick together -- through the good, through the bad,” Sanders said.

Hammond, who joined the department 2 1/2 years ago when he was 18, was one of Sanders’ first hires. During our interview Friday, Sanders wore a black bar across his badge.

“He was so willing to do whatever it took. I'm telling you, I don't care which team he worked with, he gelled,” Sanders said.

TRENDING STORIES:

Grief counselors were available at the department for anyone having a tough time coping with Hammond’s death.

“We don't fight fire alone, we don't leave any of our guys alone, and we're not gonna be alone in this journey,” Sanders said.

On Truck 54, his team saved a spot for him with his gear.

“We are going to take one minute, one hour and one day at a time, and we’re going to cherish that memory,” Sanders said.

More than 1,000 people. Including firefighters from across the state, are expected at Hammond’s funeral at noon Monday at the First Baptist Church in Cumming.

Hammond’s friends are asking people with trucks and jeeps to line the street outside the church and wave U.S. flags in honor of their friend, who loved big trucks.

“He was an American. He loved this country. He loved this community. They need to remember him as the hero he was,” Ryan McMullen said. “He loved helping people. He was not afraid to put his life on the line for his community, and that's how people should remember him.”

More than 1,000 expected at funeral for firefighter killed in crash

A local fire chief says his department is trying to heal after the loss of one of its own.

Jacob Hammond, 21, died in a motorcycle crash on Bannister Road in Forsyth County early Thursday. Investigators say he lost control on a curve just after 1 a.m.

“It’s the call you never want to get,” Sandy Springs Fire Chief Keith Sanders said.

He says his department lost a hero.

“We'll wipe the tears. We'll have a lot more. But we're a family that's going to stick together -- through the good, through the bad,” Sanders said.

Hammond, who joined the department 2 1/2 years ago when he was 18, was one of Sanders’ first hires. During our interview Friday, Sanders wore a black bar across his badge.

“He was so willing to do whatever it took. I'm telling you, I don't care which team he worked with, he gelled,” Sanders said.

TRENDING STORIES:

Grief counselors were available at the department for anyone having a tough time coping with Hammond’s death.

“We don't fight fire alone, we don't leave any of our guys alone, and we're not gonna be alone in this journey,” Sanders said.

On Truck 54, his team saved a spot for him with his gear.

“We are going to take one minute, one hour and one day at a time, and we’re going to cherish that memory,” Sanders said.

More than 1,000 people. Including firefighters from across the state, are expected at Hammond’s funeral at noon Monday at the First Baptist Church in Cumming.

Hammond’s friends are asking people with trucks and jeeps to line the street outside the church and wave U.S. flags in honor of their friend, who loved big trucks.

“He was an American. He loved this country. He loved this community. They need to remember him as the hero he was,” Ryan McMullen said. “He loved helping people. He was not afraid to put his life on the line for his community, and that's how people should remember him.”

Man accused of causing deadly crash after a pebble hit his windshield

A man accused of causing a deadly crash by stopping his car to confront someone says it was not road rage.

Juan Marquez faced a judge Friday after he was accused of causing a crash in August that killed a Coweta County mother of five.

Georgia State Patrol said he stopped his car on I-85 South when a pebble hit his windshield.

Troopers said he thought the pebble came from a tractor-trailer, so he confronted the driver.

GSP said the tractor-trailer stopped as well, but 32-year-old Jessica Jose, of Grantville, slammed into the back of the tractor-trailer.

TRENDING STORIES:

"It's got nothing to do with road rage at all. It's just an individual who was trying to get a driver's attention," said Marquez's attorney, Emmanuel West. "It's unfortunate that someone lost their life, but he didn't mean for that to happen."

Marquez has been charged with reckless driving and vehicular homicide.

"He's a nice guy, innocent until proven guilty," West said. 

Channel 2's Matt Johnson spoke to Jose's family shortly after the crash. Her mother said she holds Marquez responsible. 

"These kids will never heal from all of this. They will try, but they will never heal and I hope you know this and I hope you stay where you're at for a long time," Michelle Bennett said of Marquez.

The judge granted Marquez a $25,000 bond, but ordered him not to drive, even for work. West said Marquez is a father of six and a real estate contractor who owns his own business. He said being able to drive is how Marquez provides for his family. 

"That's created a lot of hardship for him and his family," West said. 

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