Dienhart: Budget will be high priority in ’13
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy New Year. I’d also like to quickly outline my vision of what city government should be focusing on over the next year. This will also be the template I hope to put forward to reverse the stagnation and lack of economic development that has mainly been caused by the city’s leadership vacuum.
As I promised at the end of last year’s budgeting process, I intend to be as deeply involved in the city’s budget as any council member has ever been. I will continue to work with council in order to make cuts in city spending where it makes sense.
Last year, we came close to balancing the budget without a millage increase. I believe we may be able to hit that target this year. The current 5-year plan calls for a .2 increase in the millage. I will work hard in an attempt to eradicate this millage increase.
We have had fantastic success in utilizing the facilities bond. Jon Rorie’s planning and project management skills have shone throughout the process and have stretched nearly every nickel into a dime. This bond has only covered part of our infrastructure problems. We now need to focus on wastewater distribution, roads and cart paths. I will be working with staff to ensure that our resources are properly spent in regards to our many infrastructure needs.
We also need to manage growth in a manner that provides for the needs of our citizens. Did we truly need another gas station in town, or would our citizens (and tax base) have been better served by a different kind [of] business on the RaceTrac site?
We have a substantial amount of empty businesses — not just in the retail sector, but across the board. We have 860,000 square feet of empty industrial space. Additionally, there is 260,000 square feet of empty retail and 203,000 square feet of empty office space. This does not even include undeveloped sites.
Much of this availability is situated in two places — our industrial park and Aberdeen Village. I will be proposing Tax Increment Financing districts for the two most affected areas. One potential use of these funds would be providing sewer services to the area that is currently on septic in the industrial park. According to the Fayette County Development Authority, this is the single largest roadblock in selling our industrial area to prospective businesses.
We also need to walk a fine line in how we spend our recreation funds. We have placed a great deal of attention on our seniors, possibly at the cost of attracting younger families. As we have seen in nearby communities, we are in danger of entering a cycle where young families move out due to a lack of family-oriented activities. Once this happens the seniors are left alone to prop up a sagging economy. We need a mix of young families and seniors to be a success. How do we achieve this?
To start, we need to complete the restructuring of rec user fees. This will mean that costs may creep up a little, but we will also be able to continue to provide the best youth programs possible. We also need to engage the Convention and Visitors Bureau to not only continue working with our youth organizations, but also to program the amphitheater with family friendly programming. I believe that the CVB is essential to the future of Peachtree City and should be engaged whenever possible.
The last point I’d like to bring up is leadership. We must no longer tolerate public servants that fail to serve the public trust. We must select leadership that is capable of working with our City Council, county board and state legislative delegation. We need to see leadership from the top down. This will mean a world of difference for our city.
With true leadership, the council discord will end and the city will once again be able to partner with neighboring municipalities. In addition, we will see an uptick in business wanting to locate here, once the dysfunction is cast away as the symptom of past ineffective leadership.
Finally, strong leadership could put an end to the unfortunate string of headlines that have plagued our city. No company, or family, wants to relocate to place that is perceived as slowly sinking into dysfunction. We, as a community, cannot continue this downward decent.
The plan I have put forward can turn around the problems that plague our community. We now need to work together to utilize our talents and break free from the mistakes of the last six years. We now have a new potential path forward. I encourage anyone with questions to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Council Post 2
Peachtree City, Ga.