Brown, McCarty oppose bypass by voting against asphalt contracts

Fayette's newest county commissioners: (L) Allen McCarty and Steve Brown.

To record a vote against the West Fayetteville Bypass, new Fayette County Commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty voted against the “consent agenda” of housekeeping matters at last week’s regular commission meeting.

The agenda, which generally consists of non-controversial “housekeeping” items, last week included the awarding of annual bids for asphalt acquisition and milling services for various paving and resurfacing projects. Brown inquired if any of that money would be going towards the West Fayetteville Bypass.

County Manager Jack Krakeel confirmed that the bids reflected work necessary for all county road projects including projects from the 2003 transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, the largest of which is the bypass.

Brown noted that he favors building an East Fayetteville Bypass instead, and added that part of the funding for it is instead going toward the West Fayetteville Bypass. Brown also said the East Fayetteville Bypass was considered “the number-one priority” of a previous county commission.

Brown and McCarty’s vote against the awarding of the asphalt acquisition along with milling and sealant services failed, as the consent agenda containing the bid awards passed 3-2, with Commissioners Robert Horgan and Lee Hearn voting in favor along with Chairman Herb Frady.

The asphalt products bid was awarded to E.R. Snell Contracting, Inc. and C.W. Matthews Inc. for up to $2.6 million. The asphalt milling bid was awarded to Atlanta Paving and Concrete Construction for up to $75,000. The asphalt sealant bid was awarded to Seaco, Inc. for up to $45,000.

The West Fayetteville Bypass — now officially renamed Veterans Parkway — will extend from Ga. Highway 85 South at Harp Road up to Ga. Highway 92 North at Westbridge Road. The county is also replacing a bridge on Westbridge Road and realigning a section of the road to straighten it out.

The bypass project has drawn intense criticism during the past year, particularly from a group of residents who formed to protest the project and attempt to stop it. The West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition has argued that the use of existing roads would be far better than creating a new road that will displace some residents and leave others close to the path of a new road which they never expected to occur.

Both Brown and McCarty ran last summer in the Republican Primary as avowed opponents of the bypass, ousting incumbents Jack Smith and Eric Maxwell, who were ardent bypass supporters.

In a 2009 discussion about the East Fayetteville bypass, county staff noted that the projected cost of $46.4 million was questioned by state transportation officials as to whether it was enough.

The West Fayetteville Bypass, however, had an estimated cost of $28 million, and ultimately the county decided to delay the East Bypass to make sure there were enough funds to complete the West Bypass.

The East Fayetteville Bypass was projected to start at Ga. Highway 85 South, stretching to Jeff Davis Drive and then Ga. Highway 54, dumping traffic on Ga. Highway 85 north of the Fayette Pavilion.

The county is evaluating other possibilities for the bypass, including the use of existing roads in lieu of a new road section in an effort to shrink the cost.

pips1414
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The Wrong Road is Getting the Asphalt

From everything I hear, the East Bypass ("EFB") was the "front burner" project, and there has been much discussion as to how the project got dropped and the funds shifted to the West Bypass ("WFB"). Some readers felt that there needed to be some official record that the matter was put to a vote by the commissioners. Open Records Requests were submitted for that information. Nothing from the county was provided showing that any record showing the shifting of funds to the WFB was made.

I then sent Commissioner Lee Hearn an email in an effort to put the issue to rest. I asked Mr. Hearn to tell me the story of what was done according to his recollection. I also explained that the previous BOC claimed that the West Bypass would alleviate traffic in Fayetteville, but nobody had provided any documentation other than personal opinions. Here's what he said in response:

"as stated previously the Engineering for the EFB and the WFB were both authorized at the same time..... the BOC didn't have funds to proceed with both and the BOC is moving forward with the WFB.... which will allow other projects to be constructed with our SPLOST $ Please note that I wasn't on the BOC when that decision was made.

Our 2003 Transportation update indicates the WFB and the EFB to be good projects that will help traffic in Fayetteville..... the latest traffic study by Streets Smarts estimates an average daily traffic on the WFB when it opens of about 4,000 vehicles .... the Fayette Public Works Dept. can get you a copy of this study."

From what the county provided, and from what Mr. Hearn said, it appears that the BOC never considered the shifting of funds from the EFB to the WFB as an action requiring a vote or documentation, because it was apparently already on the launching pad, with ignition previously approved. While the WFB has been a controversial project for over 3 years, there are still two missing pieces to the puzzle. The first is how much comparison the BOC gave the routing alternatives to the EFB. The second is why did the BOC find such a vital need for the WFB that other less controversial SPLOST projects could not have been approved? Mr. Hearn did provide an example where eminent domain procedures were imposed upon landowners in Palmetto, Ga., where county water was in short supply. But the public need for the West Bypass is a long way from being such a serious issue.

In case you're interested, you can obtain a copy of the WFB traffic study by contacting the Fayette Public Works Dept. That study was conducted by Street Smarts, I understand. Traffic studies are designed to take into account the existing traffic, destinations, etc., and growth projected in the area. If this SS study actually documents an urgent and compelling need for the WFB, I am sure many of us will be impressed.

It is indeed tragic for the majority of our BOC voters to vote against priority projects without looking at the alternatives. You are encouraged to voice your opinion during the public comment portion of our commissioners' meetings. The next Public Comment opportunity will be at the January 27th meeting at 7P.M.

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