The final gathering of the current Fayette County commissioners was last Thursday night. The news for the citizens that will be impacted by Phase III of the West Fayetteville Bypass was not good. Not unexpected, but still unfortunate for many homeowners in that area.
The meeting was mostly uneventful until the commissioners returned from their executive session. It was then time for Jack Smith and Eric Maxwell to say goodbye.
They said they were proud of their many accomplishments and, along with the other commissioners, spent a lot of time patting themselves on their backs for doing so many great things for the citizens of Fayette County.
I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry or get angry. I remember thinking it would be good to have my hip boots on since there was so much manure being spread around.
Both Mr. Smith and Mr. Maxwell expressed their dislike of my comments and, according to Mr. Maxwell, my unwillingness to communicate with them. Mr. Smith didn’t like the last two years of being “battered” by Mr. Chase and the people that spoke so often at the podium over the West Fayetteville Bypass project. After all, he said, we didn’t violate any laws in what we did. Never mind the fact that what they did (and are doing) is exactly what the citizens of this county said they didn’t want.
For everyone’s benefit, let me recap what I believe has happened. Twenty or so years ago, it became evident that the roads in the city of Fayetteville were not going to be able to handle the traffic. Since hundreds of cities, large and small, had constructed high-speed bypasses around their town centers, it stood to reason that Fayette County should do the same for Fayetteville.
Most of the traffic problems relate to Georgia highways 54 and 85, especially exiting east and northeast from Fayetteville. The idea was to find potential routes on the east side and maybe on the west side of the city to see if enough traffic could be diverted one way or the other to relieve existing and future traffic jams.
From the beginning, the accepted logic by all of the earlier Boards of Commissioners was that the best way to reduce the traffic problems was to build a new or upgraded route on the east side.
While that would not help the traffic coming up Hwy. 85 from the southwest nor do anything to handle traffic from Hwy. 54 from the west, a significant number of vehicles coming north on Hwy. 92 could be routed away from the problem intersections. I do not know what percentage of traffic reduction would take place going to the east, but it would clearly help.
The West Fayetteville Bypass route was not so beneficial. Serious consideration was never given to the West Bypass by the county, Georgia DOT nor the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) because interconnecting routes north of Fayetteville were not there.
The state and ARC were aware of the problem and refused to provide funds. Then, about two plus years ago, this set of commissioners opted to go to the very place that everyone said would not work.
Look at a road map of Fayette County and ask yourself why anyone would want to follow any part of the West Bypass from Harp Road at Hwy. 85 to end up on Hwy. 92 in north Fayette County. Where to go from there?
Mr. Smith stated in his parting comments that they had been battered for two years and thought that was wrong. Yet since October of 2008, many citizens, myself included, have asked why they dropped plans for the East Bypass and opted for the unworkable West Bypass.
We requested the basic traffic data which might support what they were doing, then we demanded that they explain such a nonsense proposal and all we got from the commissioners was, “You voted for this.”
The 2004 SPLOST language, if you had been able to find it, said the bypass proposals were under consideration and would be evaluated. Just because something is proposed to be investigated doesn’t mean it has to be built. There is no common sense to it, no logic, no reasonable rationale, so the selected route must have some other purpose.
In addition to the “you voted for it” nonsense, a lot of attention-diverting efforts have been made to imply that the only real problem was that the opposition to the West Bypass just didn’t want the road in their back yard.
But, including myself, there are a large number of irate citizens that oppose this project because it does NOT bypass traffic. Plain and simple, it just doesn’t make any sense. Not once has anyone in the county from top to bottom, offered anything that shows traffic will improve in Fayetteville once the West Bypass is completed.
In his parting comments, Mr. Maxwell was especially displeased with me because of statements in articles like this, as well as at their podium, where I said that communication with the current commissioners was not taking place. He said that if Mr. Chase had wanted to speak to him and learn about the project, he would have been receptive to any calls, emails or other requests for meetings.
However, based on earlier communications with Mr. Maxwell, further in-person talks with him would be useless. My first experience with communication with him came in 2006 during his election campaign against Commissioner Greg Dunn. Just recently, I received an email where Mr. Maxwell again went back to the election by saying, “(Y)our allegations against me were unsupported by any research on your part.”
Strange since, in my editorial, I stated my support of Mr. Greg Dunn as I believed he was good at communicating with the citizens. Further, I knew nothing about Mr. Maxwell so I urged people to vote for the positive we already had. What “allegations” were made must have been in his imagination because I didn’t know, or say, anything about Mr. Maxwell one way or the other.
My return message to Mr. Maxwell was that he should learn how to read as I had said nothing about him good or bad. That may be an allegation of sorts, but my statement was correct. It was Mr. Maxwell, when asked person-to-person by a citizen in North Fayette County for help with their problem, he said to be careful crossing the new road with her water bucket after she explained that the road would separate her from her well. I see nothing to be gained from calling such a commissioner to ask for a meeting.
One final thought. There is a strong possibility that once the West Bypass is complete, the city of Fayetteville will annex the entire area. This takes place after the citizens of Fayette County paid for the project.
What a gift for the city. They don’t get traffic congestion relief, but they do get a shiny new road with lots of property ready to develop and at almost no cost to the city![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.]