Imker & budget issues


I am writing to express (belatedly) my sincere gratitude for the recent budget workshop held by PTC Council member Eric Imker last January.

It was refreshing to see how committed Mr. Imker is in dealing effectively with the current economic challenges as they relate to the PTC budget.

It was also rewarding to see how constructive and professional the PTC residents were in their comments and participation.

Mr. Imker not only solicited and recorded ideas and information, he also came prepared with budget worksheets that he prepared himself.

We should all be gratified in our votes for Mr. Imker; he is truly showing himself to be a worthy and dedicated council member.

Sadly, I must admit that it was not all positive news that prompted me to publicly thank Mr. Imker for his willingness to engage the public in meaningful budget discourse. It was also an article in The Citizen (“Imker OK with bridge vote,” Feb. 27 and 28 edition) that provoked me to action.

In that article, it came to light that Mr. Imker had requested that the PTC Council apply a more measured and meaningful approach to the utilization of remaining 2005 SPLOST funds than that which was eventually approved by the PTC Council.

Per the article, it seems that Mr. Imker requested that the council take a bit more time and consider other appropriate uses for these funds. (This thought was shared in his January budget meeting, and generally agreed to by the public.)

His desire to put more effort into the budget process was torpedoed by overzealous council members, who, frankly, are not interested in citizen input.

Other overzealous participants reportedly included staff, which suggested that this was a great time to do the project. They too, it seems, were not interested in meaningful public disclosure and discussion.

As it relates to planning, one might question why so much money remains unspent from the 2005 SPLOST (over $3 million). Why were so many of the projects that were approved by Fayette County and PTC residents put on “hold” by the PTC staff, while others (such as the recently approved bridge project) were slammed directly into production by a rubber-stamping City Council? (With the exception, of course, for Mr. Imker, who had taken the time to meet with citizens, and took the consideration of PTC voters more to heart).

I also was dismayed to hear, per the article, that Mr. Imker was “OK” with the vote on the bridge after learning – just before the meeting – that the project might be eligible for federal funds.

While I agree with the concept of maximizing all fund sources, I have to say that this is more insight into the shallow planning process used by the PTC staff and Council.

The fact is that ANY of the 2005 SPLOST projects would likely qualify for federal matching IF the favored bridge would.

Why was such narrow reference made to federal funds, only in relation to this particular project? Was this not simply a last-minute, disingenuous attempt to sway the vote on this particular project? Do the PTC staff and Council really think that we PTC citizens are that naive? Really?

By the way, it seems that there are also millions of dollars remaining in the Fayette County portion of the 2005 SPLOST (some portion of which could be repurposed to PTC). Do you think the PTC staff and Council are planning on openly and comprehensively presenting possibilities and plans for the use of these funds? (Don’t hold your breath.)

In closing, I wish to say, again, thank you to Mr. Imker. I hope you succeed in bringing greater professionalism and planning prowess to the budgeting processes for PTC. We citizens are relying on your success in winning the hearts and minds of the new council members.

After all, if you continue to be outvoted as you attempt to help make the best decisions for PTC, then we will all suffer – and the negative consequences for PTC will linger for many years.

Scott Austensen

Peachtree City, Ga.