County engineer: Stormwater fee ‘barely allows’ top priorities

[Editor’s note: The following was written in response to a Fayette resident questioning the county’s use of fees collected from the stormwater utility fee.]

A copy of your comments regarding the stormwater utility fee was forwarded to me. I’m writing you to 1) acknowledge receipt of your letter; and 2) clarify some points that many people are confused over. No one likes additional fees and the frustration can be especially high when it is based on bad information.

Some points of clarification:

1. The purpose of the stormwater utility fee is to repair, replace, or upgrade existing stormwater infrastructure within the unincorporated county. Damaged or failed systems are already jeopardizing county roads and private properties. The situation will only worsen with further neglect. This is a problem across the country, and federal regulations, environmental protection, and public safety all demand action.

2. The stormwater utility and the Fayette County Water System are two independent entities with vastly different structure, organization, purposes and funding sources. Both do, however, operate as an “enterprise” fund; i.e., the revenue they collect can only be used for maintenance, operations, projects, etc., that support their purpose.

3. New parks — There has been substantial coverage in the press and various websites about a passive park associated with the Longview Road Dam project. Fayette County is owner of this dam and is responsible for bringing the structure into compliance with state safety standards. One option for compliance is to rebuild the dam. The cost will be approximately $1,409,800 for this option.

The Board of Commissioners has indicated that they would support re-building of the dam only if the lake and surrounding land were donated to Fayette County so the amenity can be enjoyed by all county citizens. We are negotiating with the property owner and it is uncertain what the final solution will be. Under any option, water system funds will not be used for this project.

4. Existing park — Last year the Water System funded and completed construction of Lake McIntosh Park along the new drinking water reservoir. The decision to develop this park was made by a previous board and the intent was to make the lake accessible to the public in a manner that could be controlled, since the lake’s primary purpose is for water supply. The Lake McIntosh Reservoir and Park are independent of the stormwater utility.

The Longview Road Dam project ... is among the largest of the stormwater utility projects, which has a total combined cost estimate in excess of $18 million. A list of all the projects is available upon request.

The current utility fee schedule generates approximately $600,000 per year. Although that is a substantial amount of money, it barely allows us to work on the most pressing projects. Stormwater management will be an issue that county commissioners, staff and citizens continue to deal with for many years.

Phil Mallon, PE
County Engineer
Fayetteville, Ga.

Husband and Fat...
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Stormwater

Mr. Mallon, I am certainly glad I am not in your shoes because I don't have the patience. The county placed you long ago in an untenable situation by not implementing the stormwater fee years ago to maintain or remediate the issues as they appear.

When I studied some of the problems detailed in the stormwater splost proposed last year, I noticed that some of the problems are not end of life cycle issues or maintainance issues, but seem to be a result of poor engineering, inspection, and contractor installation, and some homeowners modifications that affect others.

Since many of the issues are discovered past (sometimes a few years) after the typical one year warranty ends, what can the county do to remedy those issues that are clearly the result of poor engineering, inspections, workmanship?

moelarrycurly
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H&F-let me answer this

one for you, please. Here's what you do. You create this great little thang called the Fayette County Public Facilities Authority. You post on the county website for volunteers, who only have to meet, oh, once, probably right before budget talks begin for the following year. These volunteers can even be BOC members if they choose to vote themselves in (heh, heh).

You then get all your stormwater projects that you have no money for, you bundle them up with all sorts of other maintenance and operational expenses and new cart paths, the "good" stuff. Those projects that you know you cannot fit into the budget, throw them in, and then issue a Public Facilities Bond. No public referendum, no need to budget, no splost, lost, ost, st, or any other t. Additionally, no increase in the existing "stormwater fee"..whew. Oh, this way everyone gets to pay it off, including the cities who already have used their own multiple PFB's. Some might call that double taxation, but hey, what do they know.

You do this when you are up for election or re-election so you don't have to increase the dreaded taxes as the voters go to the polls, which is so inconveniently near the time you have to approve a budget. Usually 2-5 million in new debt to make it really count. Then you and your elected buds vote yes and there you go. Stormwater problems are history for about 2 or 3 years. No need to bother staff, except to hand over the debt cash so they can get to work spending it. All neat and clean. Hugs and kisses, Erica I. Any questions, call me at 1-800-I-love-taxpayer-debt-to-balance-a-budget, ext. PTC.

P.S. Check it out and pay attention to what's coming....

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MLC, you were right on the Authorities

I read the meeting minutes last night. You were right. Commission is reorganizing the Facility Authority to utilize their capabilities to raise funds. They even confirmed that Facilites can spend money on stormwater. How about that? Let's go into debt for maintenance.

In addition to the Facilities Authority, the county is getting back on track with the Hospital Authority. What do they plan here? Seems Coweta is taking over with a new hospital, a new cancer center, and a new therapy center to open.

Looks to me that commission may be trying to balance a budget with bonds. Guess that is why they send Barlow to all these financial classes put on by the state. And here I thought he was a financial wiz and conservative, lol.

moelarrycurly
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H&F

that therapy center in Newnan is a much needed addition to this area of the south side of Atlanta. There is no other inpatient PT hospital on the south side except over at Southern Regional and you would rather amputate a limb joint than have to go there. Piedmont will never have a problem getting money for anything they want to do, and will not need our county tax dollars to do it.

This PFA idea came from the great minds in PTC and the Ga. Legislature, ultimately approved by the guvnor. Just like the new "paths are all Fayette County now" mantra that is being spewed by the BOC, this started with talks between county and city staffers, fueled by certain council members with agendas. Sometimes it is better to not have intragovernmental cooperation..what one comes up with, they all come up with when it comes to finding money to spend. Look below, this is where the brainstorm started, Matt Ramsey/Virgil Fludd sponsored legislation:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/display/33909

See how much debt PTC and now FC has and will take on with these authorities now. Called bringing home the bacon...or at least the frying pan to cook it in. No tax income to pay for a project? No SPLOST to pay for a project? No need to spend down your reserves so you can keep your bond rating high...just create your very own lending bank (PFA), have your very own elected decide the collateral and spend away, have them vote on it with no public input except the handpicked volunteers to the board that meets once to approve the projects and even then it can be staff or those very own elected on the PFA.

All while those like you said, Barlow and Brown, can claim the Tea Party credo of limited government...limited to eliminate local voter participation in spending decisions, that type of limited.

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MLC

Newnan appears to be imitating pill hill. Numerous top facilities in one general area. Great for the western south side. Hopefully PFH doesn't get landlocked. A parking garage just doesn't fit the Fayette landscape good ole SB promised to save.

What chaps me about these authorities is that 4 of 5 commissioners campaigned against spending and debt. Yet here we are revitalizing these authorities for one purpose. Paying for routine maintenance. I wasn't at the meeting, but the minutes so nonchalantly mentioned utilizing a facilities bond to pay for storm water issues. I understand it's legal to do so, but I bet when they announce a bond, they do something with the jail and sneak in costs for storm water which all residents pay. Everyone likes sherif Babb, so they use his popularity to do this, then state that this tiny blurb was in the meeting minutes, so everyone knew about it. Kind of like a former chairman.

Can anyone with a straight face actually state that Barlow is against debt? Just forgiveness. To be fair, the county manager did fairly good job cutting the budget, but commission needn't brag that you balanced the budget when necessities still aren't covered.

There was a lot of hoopla about Pinewood opening in January. When did the county project the income to start a steady heavy flow instead of the trickle from the soft opening?

moelarrycurly
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H&F-pill hill

I am not familiar with pill hill. I can only surmise that the hospital part of it would be the path that SB wants so badly that would come down So. Sandy Creek Rd. and into PFH complex and then the bridge over 54 that he wants to put in. I don't know how that would be played but might be a piece to this puzzle.

Too bad on the parking garage. I hate them, but they serve their purpose and could provide cover from the weather and a covered walkway into the PFH megalopolous maze. Yes, they are ugly, but so are acres and acres of asphalt out into the boonies where you need to hire a taxi to get from your parked vehicle to the door of PFH. Many times, while in el sicko mode or a family member in el sicko mode or just plain unable to maneuver without some mobility help. It's only going to get worse as the boomers are not going to stop aging, either.

Yes, the bond will be a treasure trove of throw ins, kinda like Congress and the earmarks. Actually, just like Congress and the earmarks. Did you read the Ognio remarks on page 7 about the 2013 budget vs. the 2014 budget? Well, just like I said before, sure you can balance with other income coming from millions of new debt. duh. I don't think he has a clue about any of this. I agree, the manager did a good job with what needed to be done.

Well, Ant Man internet rumor #6,983 last I checked, said they start filming in June. About 4 months of work. I think the lack of sewer is delaying some of this and so is the fact that many of the shops out there are still under construction. Soft opening, yes, if you like to hear a pin drop, I guess that is what it was/is. lol

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Pill Hill

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pill_Hill_(Atlanta)

Where many of us have to take our kids due to the lack of specialists on the south side.

moelarrycurly
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Then you can only

hope that Newnan will bring those specialists down this way. With there being no Trauma I medical centers from downtown Atl to Macon and further south and west, we can only hope that with the economic growth down I-85 from Newnan going south that it might bring that designation to PNH. If so, maybe that would bring those specialists here.

I think we all remember even 15 years ago having to drive into Atlanta for some basic specialties and that was not pleasant at all, even back then. Sorry you have to make that trip. Having lived just outside Boston just before moving here, it was a real step back eye opener as to how good we had it there for medical specialties minutes away. Just took it for granted.

And I just have to say this. Big Papi, you took a step back down my favorites list when you did that selfie with Barry O on the WH lawn today. blechh. Hit the delete button while you can, man.

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What's to follow?

I guess this is why Barlow is bragging on FB about going to all these government financing classes.

We will see if his campaign promises hold true or if he sees the light now that he has a little more understanding

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