Although Commissioner Steve Brown was not allowed to talk about the West Fayetteville Bypass at Thursday’s meeting of the Fayette County Commission, that didn’t stop citizens opposing the project from speaking out during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Resident Tom Halpin questioned a statement that the West Fayetteville Bypass was the county’s “best bang for our buck” despite there not being facts to compare the West Fayetteville Bypass with the proposed East Fayetteville Bypass.
“No one even knows where that name even came up at,” Halpin said.
Halpin also said the option of renaming of the road to Veterans Parkway was not listed on the commission’s agenda when the bypass road name was discussed.
Bypass opponent Dennis Chase also said that as a veteran of the Vietnam War, he is “offended that this is being called ‘Veterans Parkway.’”
“I think I speak for many veterans in the county who just find this very offensive,” Chase said.
Chase added that the county could use an alternative road alignment to bypass the natural area around Whitewater Creek, but the county has so far chosen not to.
Betty Morris, who lives off Redwine Road near Ebenezer Church Road, a road section that is slated to become part of the third and final phase of the bypass, tearfully explained to the commission why she doesn’t want to lose any of her land to the project.
Morris explained that she has a memory garden she has tended since the death of her daughter, and that in the 36 years she has lived there she has many beautiful memories.
“The West Fayetteville Bypass is taking all of that away from me,” Morris said. “You can call it ‘Veterans Parkway’ but we citizens know it as the ‘Road to Nowhere’ and the ‘Road to Destruction.’”
Morris said she and her husband bought the 10-acre tract of land in 1975.
Several other residents criticized the commission for proceeding with the West Fayetteville Bypass instead of the East Fayetteville Bypass. Ginga Smithfield read portions of minutes from a joint meeting of Fayette County governments in which the East Bypass was considered to be the top priority.
At a January 2009 meeting, the Fayette County Commission discussed the potential loss of $7 million in state funding for the East Bypass and a projected total project cost of $46.4 million, which may not have been high enough. Meanwhile, the West Bypass was pegged at $28 million.
The consensus on the commission at that time was to scrap the East Bypass to make sure there were enough funds to complete at least one of the two proposed bypasses.
The East Bypass was proposed to begin at Jeff Davis Drive and continue eastward to Ga. Highway 54 at Corinth Road and then further north to intersect with Ga. Highway 85. One of the reasons cited for the cost increase on the project was the need for a significant amount of land acquisition.
Steve Smithfield complained that the commission is not being transparent and that his open records request regarding the bypass has been neglected.
Smithfield said he wants records showing when the commission officially decided to terminate the East Fayetteville Bypass, since it appears that “the shifting of funds, millions of dollars” happened without any authority to do so.
Smithfield said Commission Chairman Herb Frady has not replied to several emails inquiring about the matter.
“Again I implore you to respond to my email, Mr. Frady, and simply clear the air,” Smithfield said. “… Simply offering to meet with one of your constituents will not clear the air.”