Local environmentalist Dennis Chase has said he cannot support a list of stormwater projects proposed for funding with a countywide two-year sales tax that will be voted on in November.
Chase is questioning proposals to renovate dams on privately-owned lakes, which would put the county on the hook for future maintenance and liability if the dam were somehow to be breached, causing downstream flooding, in the future.
Estimates for the two dam repair projects eclipse $1.1 million each, according to information from the county.
Chase, in an email he sent to others earlier this month, also blamed county officials for using “scare tactics to convince us we are in dire need of replacing culverts.”
“In this case it is not only the sky that is falling but rather, according to them, our roads!” Chase wrote. “There may be a location or two to watch, but trust me, you will not fall into a hole in the road any time soon.”
Chase contends that many of the road culverts are functioning fine now and could last another 10-15 years, and that the county needs a drainage master plan to avoid future stormwater problems from projects that are built upstream.
County Commission Chairman Steve Brown responded to Chase’s email by pointing out that there currently is no “sufficient source of revenue” to replace stormwater infrastructure in the county.
“We put a lot of work into that proposal,” Brown wrote. “All I would ask is that you at least, out of courtesy, give me a call or email with your concerns.”
Chase later agreed to meet this week with county officials about the project list.
Brown noted that the county had specifically provided Chase with a personal copy of a three-ring binder released last week with details on nearly every project proposed for the $16.8 million in funding. The information is also available on the county’s web site at www.fayettecountyga.gov.
Brown added that state officials are pressing the county to come up for solutions to the dam projects.
“I am disappointed that we put that much work into the Core Infrastructure SPLOST projects and put in countless hours just to get you your own personal project list notebook (which NEVER happened with the previous SPLOSTs) on the date we promised you and you are already sending out emails trashing the work without even sharing your thoughts or concerns with me, after breaking my neck to make sure you were always included in our process,” Brown wrote in his reply to Chase’s original email.
If the sales tax is approved, county property owners will be able to avoid an annual stormwater fee for four years.
County Commissioner David Barlow said he agreed with Brown’s comments and asked Chase to produce alternative solutions.
“It is easy to criticize and complain,” Barlow wrote. “Real leadership is recognizing the problem, developing solutions (citizen input) and implementing the best solution.”
Chase responded that he thinks “gathering a huge pot of money for a ‘list’ is not leadership.”
“That is old government style of throwing a lot of money at a perceived problem and maybe we will hit a solution,” Chase wrote. “If it is your personal money, fine, do whatever you wish, but don’t ask taxpayers to pony up $20-plus million for problems that are questionable. Don’t expect me to support going after a ‘list’ when there is no overall plan in place to address the need.”
Chase’s original email on the topic was critical of proposals that would replace long sections of culvert on private property as well on land that is listed on plats as being “easements” but in reality may not be fully executed easements.
“If the county now assumes responsibility, by entering the property to do work, we are stuck forever,” Chase said.
Chase said the project list included information he has been seeking from the county for the past several years, adding that the county has gone to considerable expense to compile the list.
The proposed stormwater repairs would be funded with the county’s portion of the two-year sales tax, while Fayette’s cities would also get a portion of the tax to spend on their own projects. Peachtree City has initially planned to earmark tax proceeds for street and cart path repair while Fayetteville is still working on its project list.
The SPLOST will go before the voters in a special countywide referendum this November.