Fayette Visioning supporters talk funding, goals

The Fayette Visioning Initiative is well underway, with a steering committee of 40 and a recently completed public survey with more than 1,450 people providing input on Fayette County’s needs for the future. So who is funding the initiative and exactly what kind of influence does the steering committee hold as the visioning process continues to unfold?

Fayette County Chamber of Commerce President Virginia Gibbs was asked about the initiative’s income and expenses: Where do the funds come from and who is giving money for the effort?

Though all Fayette Visioning Initiative meetings are open to the public and the organization is not currently a nonprofit that status could change, said Gibbs.

“We talked about having it be a 501(c)(3) now or in the implementation phase,” Gibbs said Monday, explaining that the first of three parts of the process has just ended and the third, the implementation phase, is expected to begin this summer. “For now, the chamber has a specific income and expense line item.”

Left, Virginia Gibbs, Fayette Chamber CEO. File photo.

Gibbs supplied both income and expenses showing that, through Jan. 31, the initiative had received $75,500 with paid expenses of $47,472.

In terms of income, the initiative received $51,000 from Coweta-Fayette EMC, $7,500 from Piedmont Fayette Hospital, $5,000 from Georgia Power, $5,000 from Fellowship of Love Church, $5,000 from Kaiser Permanente, $1,000 from Mark Gray State Farm Insurance and $1,000 from Tyrone resident Pota Coston. All the business contributors conduct business in Fayette County, Gibbs added.

Expenses include $45,000 to Market Street Services, Inc. for consulting services, $1,033.93 for two community meetings at Dolce Atlanta Peachtree, $417.50 for printing and copies, $228.88 for consultant mileage and reimbursable expenses, $130 for a polling subscription, $75.73 for lunches at two meetings, $50.97 for name tags, cards and supplies for meetings and $34.99 for website domain and email registration for FayetteVisioning.org

Visioning initiative co-chair Bob Ross was asked Monday if the steering committee holds any influence over the outcome of the process.

“There has been a very deliberate effort by the steering committee and Market Street not to try to solve the issue before the public defines what the issues are. The [10] focus groups were a big part of that,” Ross said, explaining that members of the focus groups, averaging approximately 15 members per group, provided input on “what’s on people’s minds and where they think we are.”

The steering committee includes 40 Fayette residents representing large employers, small business, the faith-based community, social service nonprofits and local governments and elected officials. The committee includes chamber members, those not affiliated with the chamber and those, such as Ross, who were opposed to chamber positions on issues such as the endorsement of the one percent regional sales tax for transportation.

Asked if the steering committee has already decided what it thinks Fayette County needs or if the committee began the initiative with preconceived notions on what that group would like to see unfold, Ross in speaking for himself said, “I wanted to see a vibrant community. If that’s preconceived, then so be it. I wanted outstanding schools, jobs for youngsters and the existing population, a community that takes care of its own and good public safety. If that’s preconceived, then I’m guilty as charged. The steering committee has been very deliberate about not getting the cart before the horse.”

There are some who have asked if the Fayette vision will unfold by residents being told what to believe or what to do.

“The steering committee of 40 people is not being directed by an individual or any group to do anything,” Ross said, noting that what will result from the visioning process is dependent upon the citizens who make up the Fayette County community. “The whole thing is dependent on the community realizing the validity of the vision and supporting it. It’s a voluntary effort. (The steering committee) has no authority to impose the vision on anyone. Having a great vision is dependent on having input from the 1,500 people who responded to the survey.”

A portion of the recent visioning survey reported the position, held by some, that younger people did not live in Fayette due to the cost of housing.

At right, Trey Ragsdale, co-chair of the Fayette Visioning Initiative. File photo.

“Some people jumped to the conclusion that meant (the idea would be to have) cheaper housing or not having to ‘earn your way’ into Fayette County. The steering committee hasn’t discussed these things,” said Ross. “No matter what way we go the vision will have to address the disparity in housing. But this group of citizens has no authority to impose a vision once developed. It has to be a vision the community buys into. If the community does not buy in to the vision, it will not occur.”

For more information on the Fayette Visioning Initiative, to see the names of steering committee members and to view the results of the community survey visit www.fayettevision.org.