SPLOST list: No evidence any project is needed
Early in July, Fayette County put a project list out for public comment, titled Core Infrastructure SPLOST 2013. After a review of what was presented, I took a position of opposition based on the lack of project details. Fayette County staff asked me to look at additional information. I did so as well as visiting proposed sites, but I have not changed my mind.
I was able to visit about 20 of the project sites and most raise a simple question: why? If you reviewed the project list, you know generally where it is located, a little about costs, but I doubt if there are many of you who understand what this set of projects propose.
We are being asked to vote for a tax for with very little understanding of what it is for, other than, “If you don’t, holes will open in the roads, so just say yes.”
After reviewing everything available, I am even more opposed to the project list now.
My opposition is not about how the Board of Commissioners are trying to fund projects. Rather it is the lack of evidence of knowing what the money is for.
It has been suggested that I need to be offering solutions. But what they want is solutions on how to raise a lot of money, and not talk about the specifics of projects.
I appreciate the commissioners’ push to fix what they believe are problems, but without a watershed drainage plan to analyze impacts of so much work, it can very well lead to unintended consequences — consequences that we will have to fix later.
Is there really a reason for rushing into this without knowing what impacts may result?
From my visits to project sites I offer the following examples about why I’m concerned:
One of the Category I projects is the Longview Dam. No information is provided on what they intend to do with $1,212,647 estimated for this project.
When I visited the site, I concluded that there are problems with this dam. Mostly because the road is built right on top of the dam and because there were large trees growing the entire length. Large trees, even small trees, indicate that the structure is full of roots endangering the structure.
But here is the problem. One family owns almost everything on both sides of the dam, including the entire lake. I don’t know if the road is owned by the county or the family. However, fixing this structure will be ensuring the property owner will continue to have his own private lake.
And, if the county is legally obligated to do this work, then we need to know a few things. First, obviously, what is the plan to fix the structure? Second, what alternatives were considered? Does this project lay long-term liability on the county? And, is the county on the hook for yearly maintenance?
One possible alternative I would like to see is the cost of an adequately-sized box culvert installed in the dam which would drain the lake. Suppose the cost of this new culvert were to be $600,000. Why then should we be paying 1.2 million at this location?
Taking that a step further, if the property owner demands that the lake be maintained, then it should be their responsibility to contribute the difference between the box culvert and whatever the current project estimate covers.
In addition, if the tax payers agree to do the dam repair, then the property owner will be assessed 50 percent of the yearly maintenance costs. I’m all for saving $600,000, aren’t you? But all of that is missing from the SPLOST list.
One project on the county list will be on Roberts Road, just north of Fayetteville. Currently, water simply flows over the gravel road; no structures of any kind. The county proposes spending $359,642 to fix it.
But with no plan, who knows what the impacts will be. In this case, the drainage is between two junk car lots. Approximately 37 acres of old cars are parked on those lots in varying stages of deterioration.
There are a number of toxic chemicals flowing into Morning Creek, and eventually some of that water goes into the county water system. My guess is they plan a new culvert to allow water to flow under the road. Even though a plan to prevent this pollution should be an important part of the project, I doubt it exists.
Finally, this comes down to assurances from county officials that they know what they are doing. But verbal assurances are not enough for me to support a vote to increase my taxes.
[Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Line Creek Association of Fayette County, and has published numerous newspaper columns.]