All agree traffic is problem, but no specific solutions proposed
The Peachtree City Rotary Club on Oct. 26 held a forum that featured three candidates for Peachtree City mayor and the three candidates for the Post 3 council seat.
Billed as a community service event, the “Get Out the Vote” forum featured Mayor Vanessa Fleisch, former Councilman Eric Imker and business owner Dar Thompson in the race for mayor. The Post 3 council race featured business owner Kevin Madden, student Sarah Toussaint and former Mayor Harold Logsdon. Post 3 Councilwoman Kim Learnard did not run for re-election.
Above, Peachtree City mayoral candidates at the Oct. 26 forum sponsored by the Peachtree City Rotary Club included, from left, Mayor Vanessa Fleisch, former Councilman Eric Imker and business owner Dar Thompson. Photo/Ben Nelms.
All questions came from the audience of nearly 200 attending the forum at the Peachtree City Hotel and Conference Center.
It was not a surprise to have traffic issues surface during the forum. One of those questions asked of the mayoral candidates was whether they favored the extension of TDK Boulevard into Coweta County.
Fleisch said that, given the 3,000 home sites platted on 1,600 acres in Coweta County, extending that road would add to the city’s traffic problems.
Imker essentially agreed, saying Peachtree City does not need that level of traffic coming into the city.
Thompson in his response said the city’s traffic problems require looking at the issues by examining every thoroughfare from Rockaway Road on the south to Tyrone on the north. He said it was most important to look at all options and be transparent with citizens.
Another question to the mayoral candidates asked what could be done to encourage young families to move to and stay in Peachtree City.
Thompson in his response noted that Georgia is now the No. 1 state for business, adding that large numbers of people are forecast to move to the state in the coming years. Stating that Peachtree City must be in the posture to attract some of those people, Thompson said Eaton, one of the city’s larger employers, is having difficulty getting employees to come to Peachtree City.
Thompson said the city must get out of the 1980 mentality. Not everybody today wants a big house and a big yard, he said.
We believe our own hype, said Thompson, adding that the often-touted Peachtree City bubble is starting to collapse. We need to stop being short-sighted and move forward, he added.
Fleisch in her response said the groundwork for the encouragement for young families has been accomplished by taking care of the city.
Noting that Thompson was not totally wrong, Fleisch said the city needs to add industrial space, adding that the price point for a home for a young family today comes with an average price tag of $330,000.
Imker followed, saying young families need jobs. The city needs to keep its industrial sites open to bring in jobs, rather than having that acreage rezoned residential, he said. Other ways to attract young families include reducing the millage rate and keeping the public education the best it can be, he said.
Another question asked if the candidates would pursue a bypass around the city.
Imker said Peachtree City needs an alternative traffic route, adding that the council could work with the county and Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) to accomplish that.
Thompson said he, too, would pursue a bypass and would work with all parties to that end.
Fleisch did not address the bypass question, referencing instead the work of the 74 Gateway Coalition, a group of local cities and other entities working on traffic congestion and traffic flow along Ga. Highway 74 from Peachtree City to Fairburn.
Fleisch also commented on the Hwy. 74 interchange at Interstate 85, saying that a new cloverleaf interchange might be closer than people think.
Questions to the Post 3 candidates also centered on issues facing the city. One of those asked the candidates’ opinions on what could be done about the interchange at I-85 and Hwy. 74. It should be noted that cities have no control over state and federal roads or improvements made to them. A city or county is limited only to offering input on what those improvements might be.
Logsdon said the problem is one that will be both difficult and expensive to fix, adding that the solution would require state and federal dollars.
The interchange needs a total re-design, said Logsdon, adding his belief that Ga. Highway 92 is not too close to the existing interchange at Hwy. 74 to prohibit another interchange being added.
Madden said DOT owns Hwy. 74, noting that he would work with local and state officials to address the problem.
Commenting on the need for an additional entrance and exit, Madden noted the increasing truck traffic along Oakley Industrial Boulevard that frequently adds to the traffic woes.
Toussaint is her response said the heavy impact to many Peachtree City motorists requires fostering good relationships with all parties.
Another question dealt with public comments at City Council meetings and if the candidate would allow those comments during the council-staff topics portion of the meeting. It should be noted that public comments at council meetings come near the beginning of the meeting, while the council-staff topics portion of the meeting is the last item on the agenda.
Toussaint said she would strongly encourage allowing those comments, adding that public input is useful and needed.
Logsdon said citizens should be allowed the ability to have their say. He said public comments at meetings were instituted in 2006 when he was mayor.
Madden agreed that citizens should have their say, adding that meetings should not last six or seven hours. That could be accomplished by imposing a time limit on speakers, he said.
Traffic is a huge issue in Peachtree City and surfaced in another question. In that regard, the candidates were asked what they would do to address congestion.
Madden said traffic congestion is the top city complaint. Though highways 54 and 74 are owned by the state, the logjams on affected city streets need to be studied to arrive at a solution. One potential solution might be the installation of roundabouts where appropriate, he said.
Logsdon said the solution is beyond the ability of city taxpayers to solve, given the ownership of highways 54 and 74 by the state and the millions of dollars that would be required to provide a remedy.
Logsdon said building more lanes that add capacity is not the answer, noting that he does not have the answers but can help find them.
Remarking that he has a dozen years experience in networking with county and state officials, Logsdon said he would use that experience to help arrive at a solution.
Toussaint said the city has consulted with traffic experts and can continue to do so. She said the city could work with Coweta County to find a cut-through on the city’s south side. That would help mitigate the problem on highways 54 and 74 since so many Coweta residents work in the industrial areas and use the intersection going to and from work.
Asked their opinion on the top three most important issues, Toussaint said those were traffic, taxes and spending money wisely in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Logsdon said the top three issues were effective re-development, traffic and citizens receiving full value for their taxpayer dollars.
Madden responded, saying the top three issues were traffic, proper development in the city and proper annexation.