A letter to the editor in today’s paper criticizes the Peachtree City Council for defunding the city’s development authority and not taking steps to enhance the recruitment of new large-scale industry and businesses here.
Peachtree City resident Stephen Allen pointed out that Low Temp, a company that recently pulled out of negotiations to relocate here from Jonesboro, has cited the inability to provide sewer to the site at no cost, along with confusion over fees, buffers and schedules between the county, the city and the planning commission.
Low Temp proposed bringing 165 jobs here but balked at paying $51,000 in sewer tap-in fees and paying its share of a $300,000 cost to expand city sewer to its property line.
Council members Vanessa Fleisch and Kim Learnard both said they hope to avoid the confusion of the latter by bringing on an economic development coordinator for the city. Councilman Eric Imker, who joined Fleisch and Learnard in voting to defund DAPC did not return a phone call seeking comment by press time Tuesday. Councilman Doug Sturbaum and Mayor Don Haddix voted against the economic development coordinator position and against the defunding of DAPC.
The EDC position “would serve as a central point of contact to interface not only with outside entities but also within our departments,” Learnard said. That also includes meeting with the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and all village centers and other retailers to help with marketing efforts, she added.
Fleisch said the Low Temp negotiation was a good example of why the city needed to streamline its process down to having just one point of contact to help deal with potential major employers.
“I think it’s all going to work and we’re all going to be happy with the results,” Fleisch said.
The economic development coordinator will be in charge of preparing a budget for the city’s economic development activities. It also has been said the coordinator will also work hand in hand with DAPC’s initiatives.
Learnard also said one of the EDC’s tasks will be to write grant proposals for the city.
Allen’s letter to the editor was also critical of the “surprise” move to completely remove the $35,000 in funding slated for the development authority of Peachtree City from the city’s budget.
Fleisch pointed out that DAPC has about $20,000 in reserves it can use, and she also anticipates the City Council funding several initiatives for local merchants leading up to the holiday shopping season, after which time the city hopes to have filled the economic development coordinator position.
Fleisch added that her main concern was that DAPC, which had sought a budget increase from $35,000 to $150,000, would become an “alternative bureaucracy.”
Learnard said she didn’t think it was “necessarily true” that the DAPC defunding was a surprise, but with the economy being down council had to look at the budget critically with justifications for expenditures.
“Every possibility was explored. I think Eric made the point that no stone was left unturned,” Learnard said.
Allen’s letter questioned whether council members bothered to meet with DAPC members or any of the businesses it serves before voting to defund the authority.
Fleisch said she had spoken with authority members and also attended each DAPC meeting last year, though she didn’t seek out retailers who were benefitting from DAPC’s organizational efforts.
Learnard said she met one-on-one with DAPC Chairman Mark Hollums to learn about future projects and get additional information. Beyond that, council’s main communication with DAPC was through Mayor Don Haddix, who was council’s liaison with DAPC, Learnard said.