Smith & Maxwell’s bypass fiasco

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On May 18, this newspaper published one of my editorials where I described just how poorly Eric Maxwell and Jack Smith have been with decisions related to the environment. Please reread that article to refresh yourselves about that aspect of why you should not vote for either of these incumbents for Fayette County commissioner.

But my concerns have broadened after I attended the commissioner forum held earlier this month. For quite some time, I had been concerned about the change in direction that these commissioners took away from the East Fayetteville Bypass and redirected staff to work on completion of the West Fayetteville Bypass.

Information I have obtained through Open Records requests show that the East Bypass had four primary alignments, one of which avoided impacts to the stream and wetlands along Morning Creek.

At the forum, my question to Mr. Smith was why not use Alignment 4? And the immediate answer I received was, “I don’t know the details of the various alignment.” Amazing, to say the least.

The answer was not what we expect from a county commissioner. I would not expect any of them to recall every detail of every project that comes before them. But the bypass issue is, by far, the most expensive county project that this set of commissioners had to consider.

If he and probably Mr. Maxwell do not know the details of such an important project, [this] makes them the wrong individuals to hold the position of county commissioner. The very least they can do is know and understand their biggest project.

For your information, Alignment 4 of the East Fayetteville Bypass follows existing roads to Ga. Highway 54, as opposed to the first three alignments which cross parts of Morning Creek and wetlands along that stream. These alignments would also require a very long bridge.

Each of these three alternatives would be environmentally damaging and cost a great deal more than Alignment 4, especially since it is a shorter route to Hwy. 54.

Twenty of so years ago, arrangements for finding a bypass around Fayetteville included cost-share funding from the state and federal governments. The 2004 SPLOST had been presented, in part, with the intent of using those local tax dollars for the local share and accept significant state and federal dollars to provide a fund large enough to do the entire job.

But very early in the process, the state concluded that there was not a basis for the West Fayetteville Bypass, thus no funding from outside the county.

However, they did agree to provide funding for the East Bypass. Then, when the county insisted on one of the three alignments through the Morning Creek ecosystems, the federal funding was withdrawn and the commissioners were left with only local SPLOST dollars.

Up to the point where the commissioners now decided to change to the West Fayetteville Bypass, Fayette County had [spent] $597,000 for the East Bypass. We basically have nothing to show for any of it, with the exception of some reports from consultants and county staff being gainfully employed. It is questionable if this information will ever be useful.

Since they were not willing to consider the less expensive Alignment 4, the alternative that makes some sense, they redirected all of the available SPLOST money to the ill-fated West Fayetteville Bypass. Now they are pushing an environmentally and socially unacceptable project that makes even less sense then their failed East Fayetteville Bypass fiasco.

However, they make matters worse when, during the night of the commissioner forum, both Maxwell and Smith have the gall to tell us how great a decision this was since the West Bypass was cheaper. “More bang for the buck,” according to them.

Look at the total mess they created as they continue to select the worst possible alternatives, lose state and federal funding in the process and then pat themselves on the back and ask for our votes. Only a poor politician could come up with such logic.

Mr. Smith may be a good CPA and Mr. Maxwell [a good] attorney, [but] respectively their common sense doesn’t come up to what we should be demanding from our commissioners.

In my opinion, Mr. Maxwell’s and Mr. Smith’s lack of care and/or protection of our environment is more than enough to place my vote for Steve Brown and Allen McCarty to replace those incumbents. But when you add the above issues, I can not see how anyone would consider voting for Mr. Smith or Mr. Maxwell.

[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.]