Bubbles, booze and taxpayer questions

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The Peachtree City Council is attempting to pull another “fast one” on taxpayers. Replacing the bubble that covers the outdoor swimming pool at Kedron Fieldhouse during the winter is an issue kicked around for years with very little community support. The bubble is a desirable amenity but replacement should not be a priority when the city is facing a severe budget crunch and more possible reductions in service.

The bubble issue was not on the original published agenda for the May 5 council meeting but appeared on an amended agenda under the topic, “New Air Support Structure for Kedron.” Who would have guessed that air support structure is code for the “bubble”?

Amending public meeting agendas is legal and the city fulfilled minimum meeting disclosure requirements in this instance. The problem is that the Peachtree City Council has a tendency to wait and parachute controversial issues onto the agenda late in an effort to minimize public knowledge and discourse.

Another example of controversial issues being introduced at the last minute with little fanfare was a resolution to hold a November referendum on Sunday alcohol package sales. The issue was added to the same amended agenda for the May 5 meeting.

Council’s resolution was hurriedly passed on a 5-0 vote without one local minister or representative of the Georgia Christian Coalition being present to speak against it. The opponents of Sunday alcohol sales simply didn’t know the resolution was scheduled for a vote.

Readers should be aware that the new state law permits but does not require the council to have a vote on Sunday alcohol sales. Approving a referendum on Sunday alcohol sales is a hot potato that some council members support but don’t want to discuss publicly. There should have been considerable public input before scheduling the referendum.

The circumstances surrounding the bubble are the most disgraceful part of this story. The city staff sent out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to 10 companies for bids on installation of a new bubble. The response was stunning because only one bid was received and it was in the amount of $346,177 … or more!

Arizon Companies, headquartered in St. Louis, submitted the proposal which included a provision that the company be awarded $6,000 to determine if the existing footings are adequate to support the new bubble. There was no discussion among council members about the company’s qualifications or ability to conduct such a study.

Our professed public servants, by a vote of 5-0, seized the opportunity to needlessly give the company $6,000 instead of hiring a structural engineer for objective advice. Mayor Don Haddix argued vehemently against replacing the bubble but voted in favor of the motion to fund the $6,000 study. Some bystanders and city staff members were puzzled.

The engineering study by the sole contract bidder can result in significantly higher costs for the bubble with no possibility of reducing the bid amount. Arizon representatives have an incentive to increase their bottom line and company control of the engineering study is like letting the fox guard the hen house. Council failed the taxpayers by not hiring an independent structural engineer to make the determination about footings.

The Arizon bid is pricey enough to warrant an extensive review to determine why Peachtree City taxpayers have been placed in a single bid situation. Can it be true, as asserted, that only three or four companies in the world are capable of installing a bubble and that none except Arizon is interested in the project?

The review should begin with an interview with the Arizon representative who once worked for the now defunct company that installed the original bubble. Taxpayers should know if he met with any city council members or had input in developing the specifications which discouraged other bidders. An opportunity for public input on the feasibility of the bubble should also be held as part of the review.

There is no evidence of council wrongdoing but the contract price, the single bidder situation and the manner in which it appeared on the meeting agenda raises enough red flags for grave concern. City staff calculated the debt service on the $352,000 loan to acquire the replacement bubble to be $45,000 per year for ten years. Most bond payments will be made by Peachtree City taxpayers long after this crowd has been voted out of office.

The City Council’s vote on the $346,177 Arizon contract is tentatively planned on May 19 unless the public steps up and bursts the bubble.

My unrelated thoughts for the month:

• God bless Navy Seal Team 6 and the entire Seal community. This Marine salutes them!

• Representative Matt Ramsey is commended for his leadership in guiding the illegal immigration bill through the legislative process. Governor Nathan Deal should sign the bill despite pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and agribusiness industry to veto it. The law is good for Georgia taxpayers!

• It is not surprising that Joey Grisham, Peachtree City’s new economic development coordinator, resigned after four months on the job. He may have been surprised to learn that he was expected to stay out of the way of the highly effective and well-funded Fayette County Development Authority which is responsible for economic development.

Grisham was relegated to helping absentee shopping center landlords fill a few storefronts. Landlord representation is not part of economic development nor is it a legitimate expenditure of taxpayer money. The young man was not well received in the community and did the right thing to resign from the dead-end job.

• Terry Garlock’s book entitled “Strength & Honor: America’s Best in Vietnam” is a brilliant compilation of the stories of American servicemen about their experiences in Vietnam. Mr. Garlock was a combat Cobra helicopter gunship pilot who nearly lost his life when shot down in Vietnam. He was recognized for heroism with a Bronze Star and Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mr. Garlock is a local resident and guest columnist for this newspaper. You can get his book by visiting the Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Books-a-million website. It is also available in some stores.

• Tip of the week: Terry Garlock is a breakfast regular at Mimi’s Good Food in Peachtree City and frequently autographs copies of his book for the public … between courses.

Enough said!

[Scott Bradshaw, a resident of Peachtree City, is a real estate broker and residential real estate developer. He may be contacted at rand5474@bellsouth.net.]