New judgeship appointment in Henry

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Henry County needs a fourth Superior Court judge.

That’s the opinion of the current members of the judiciary, and the Board of Commissioners agree, having approved a resolution in support of a judicial needs study in that regard. The vote came at the April 18 regular meeting.

Arch McGarity, chief judge for the Flint Judicial Circuit, made a presentation at the meeting on the need for an additional judge, citing the county’s ongoing growth in population and the increased case load that has come with it. The county’s population continues to grow annually at a 2.3 percent rate, and the increasing number of businesses locating in the county has an impact on the overall amount of civil as well as criminal litigation.

The county’s case filings are adding up to 1,369 per judge, which is 14 percent above the state average. The criminal court caseload is averaging 378 and is made up mostly of serious criminal acts. Henry County State Court is designed to address misdemeanors, while all felonies are heard in Superior Court.

“The county has become more urban, and there is more gang involvement and violent crime,” said McGarity. “We just had one murder trial and two others are coming just from one apartment complex.”

The Flint Judicial Circuit consisted of four counties for decades until it was determined that Henry County was large enough for its own circuit. There have been three Superior Court judges in the circuit since Jan. 1, 2006.

The Judicial Council of Georgia has recommended a fourth judge, according to county officials, and the next step is for the judicial needs study to be conducted by the Administrative Office of the Courts for the state. Final approval would be given by the General Assembly and the Governor.

In other business, the commissioners approved the second name change in four years for the county’s airport in Hampton. After being known officially as Atlanta South Regional Airport, it was renamed Henry County Airport in 2013 and now will be called Atlanta Speedway Airport. The local identifier will be changed from HMP to ASA pending approval by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

County officials said the latest name change is “to better serve its location within the Atlanta market.” Representatives of Atlanta Motor Speedway have indicated that the facility will give its approval for the county to use the new name.

Airport manager Michael Toney told the board that among the recent users of the airport are several jets not seen there in the past. Improvements now underway include one of the roadways serving the facility, and one of the runways will be addressed following that project. The new sewer line to the airport is to be completed by the end of this year, after which sewer construction within the airport itself will begin.

“Within two years from now I would hope to see a brand-new airport terminal building and sewer-ready infrastructure,” said Toney.

Commissioner Dee Clemmons, in whose district the airport lies, called it a “jewel” and a “landmark,” noting that it is the closest airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and needs to be developed into “an economic engine that is self-supportive.”

As for its proximity to Atlanta Motor Speedway, Toney referred to a few facilities across the United States similarly located near NASCAR tracks and the potential for economic development there.

Commissioner Blake Prince noted that people across the country do not know where Henry County is in Georgia but when AMS is mentioned they know it is in Hampton. “This [name change] “remains true to our history in Henry County and our future,” he said.