Some pretty serious events are unfolding all around us. I would just like to touch upon two.
Reading about the TSPLOST and its impact can be very confusing. Hopefully coming from a different perspective might help. We all know government rules and laws make nothing easy to understand.
In 2010, I said we would be a donor county, as did Mayor Rehwaldt of Tyrone, County Commission candidates Steve Brown and Alan McCarty and a Peachtree City Council member. Recently Fayette County Chairman Herb Frady has come to the same conclusion.
We also warned about transit, specifically rail and bus. Looking at what has happened in other counties with MARTA and the Clayton and Cobb systems makes this a grave concern.
[Fayetteville] Mayor [Kenneth] Steele, a devotee of ARC, transit (yes, in 2008 he did try to lecture me at a Chamber luncheon about Peachtree City and my being parochial on not supporting rail here) and urbanization (no, we are not an urban county) led the campaign to remove me from the Regional Transportation Roundtable (RTR) because I dared to suggest there was a better way.
He was supported by three on the Peachtree City Council in a resolution (note the majority seems to do a resolution a year against me, which is interesting) and the mayors of Brooks and Woolsey.
As claimed, and later upheld, those actions were illegal. But, it was not worth paying the court costs to get them reversed.
Well, folks, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is moving forward on a Regional Transit system backed by a tax on which voters will have no say.
On being a donor county, Fayette will contribute $190 million in TSPLOST. We will get back $143 million. Does the difference not make us a donor county?
Mayor Steele tries to claim we get it all back by referencing the widening of Ga. Highway 54 and the Ga. Highway 74/Interstate 85 interchange improvements. Problem is he is charging 100 percent of the cost to Fayette even though 60 percent of Hwy. 54 is in Clayton County and all of the interchange is in Fairburn. Neither is charged to us by the state.
Who gets the economic impact of the interchange? Fairburn, not us.
Consider those already built empty warehouses and homes there, plus the additional warehouses, homes and mall already approved for construction. What are their future impacts on area traffic? How much improvement for Fayette traffic do you think we are really going to enjoy?
Would not other access points, as in via Tyrone/Palmetto Road, do a much greater service to Fayette?
So, any way you look at it we are getting back considerably less than we send out as a county.
Now, look within Fayette at the $143 million. The west half of the county has a whopping $2.4 million in two projects in Peachtree City. Peachtree City, not counting Tyrone or the surrounding unincorporated county, will be paying $60 million into the TSPLOST. $60 million out to get back $2.4 from the 85 percent regional portion and $10 million back in the 15 percent local discretionary portion. What a deal!
Where does the rest go? It goes to a network of roads centering and focused on Fayetteville, minus about $2 million going to local use for the county and a few $100K going to the remaining Fayette cities.
Is all that windfall actually good for Fayetteville? I do not think so. Despite claims it will only relieve existing traffic congestion, when you study the map I believe you will see a development corridor. So, residents along some now peaceful areas, get ready for traffic and development.
Rumor is already out about a Publix coming to the West Bypass area along with about 5,000 homes, all to be annexed into in Fayetteville. But next year, after the election.
So, folks, judge for yourself and ask your questions. As well judge if you want more of the same in the future. Or, do you want change on how we are represented on ARC? If the TSPLOST fails, do you want to remain in ARC? The RTC is not going away and the TSPLOST can be voted on again in 2015.
There is a whole lot to think about. There is an expected change of representation on ARC via a change in the county chairman. Do you want a change in the mayoral representation as well?
Rest assured, unless there is some major change in thinking, if Ken Steele is reelected, he will go back on ARC due to a three-block vote of Fayetteville, Brooks and Woolsey.
It is interesting to think of the impact of such changes. An old timer ARC champion gone and two new voices pointing in new directions on ARC. That is change we need, not only for Fayette, but all of ARC.
Really, folks, think about it. There is no need to pile every business into Atlanta in this electronic age. A bucket only holds so much water. So, why in the world are they so desperate to fund more of the same thinking instead of eliminating the need to commute by growing jobs where the people live? Where is the innovative out of the box thinking? Oh, yeah, Atlanta does not want to stop getting all those revenues is why.
What I am saying works. A golf cart drive to work versus commute to Atlanta. Ten minutes in a car versus an hour or more to just the airport area.
Keep the money here. I know Peachtree City can do a lot of economic development and meeting local needs with $6 million each year from a SPLOST versus $1 million from the TSPLOST. $190 million used for Fayette needs and economic development can go a long way. That is, as long as the right people are in office to set the requirements of use for the SPLOST referendum to be voted on by the voters.
As well, it will not end in 10 years. The kickoff goal is 30 years. Long term is permanent. Donor county forever. Urbanize Fayette and end why we moved here.
My censure said I am negative on Peachtree City and Fayette and they are amazed why. That is nonsense. I am fighting for Peachtree City and Fayette. I do not share their ARC vision for our future. I am negative on what they want, not Peachtree City and Fayette. All said noting they have no problem being negative on me.
Finally, just a bit of clarity on the Peachtree City budget and millage rate. All five of us voted approval, but not for the same reasons.
You hear of the touted five year plan, which is actually Councilman Imker’s proposal, not an approved budget. We only approve one year at a time, not five.
Key to that proposal is the economy has bottomed out and will be turning around, deliberately spending about $4 million of reserves and tax increases. Only the three support that thinking. Nor was it the staff proposal. Staff was bound by the guidelines of cut no services and keep services provided in the current fashion.
An interesting comment was made by Councilwoman Learnard. She said not to come complaining to her in two years when you see a large amount of reserves being spent. It is part of the plan.
Reality is the next council will have a clean slate to work with on the 2013 budget. How that will work out will depend on who is elected this year. The future is not in stone by any means and 2013 through 2016 years will be determined by the next two councils, not this one.
We are living in very unique and challenging times. We need to figure out where we want to go in the future and be prepared to get there. We need to be ready and get it right. We need to be out of the box and innovative.
[Don Haddix was elected mayor of Peachtree City in 2009. Previously, he had served two years as a council member. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]