Brown: ‘Morally right and good economics’
At the first meeting of your new 2013 Fayette County Board of Commissioners, we passed a resolution entitled, “Resolution of the Fayette County Commissioners pledge to citizens and the county staff on core values and beliefs.”
The resolution acknowledges we were placed in office by the citizens and that the board is responsible and accountable to those same citizens.
The resolution also pledged transparency, openness, fiscal responsibility, as well as professional and courteous behavior with staff and constituents.
Additionally, your board pledged to address concerns with a sense of urgency and that we will take ownership of problems (whether we caused them or not) and be responsive.
The resolution was enlarged, mounted and is always on display in the Board of Commissioners meeting chambers. Your board has consistently challenged the public to hold us accountable to our pledge.
Today, transparency is the norm and our meetings are the most open in the county government’s history with citizens being allowed to speak on any item on the agenda at the time the item is called or on any issue not on the agenda. We now publicly seek citizens to participate on authorities, commissions and boards.
Your board took a Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) battle from our predecessors, it was drawn out in a year-long court battle and mediation stalemate, and had the conflict resolved with our cities in two weeks.
Your board has ushered in fiscal responsibility by cutting jobs and renegotiating vendor and service contracts to force our county budget into balance.
Another challenging setback we are now addressing (“owning”) is forming a plan to handle 45 or so years of delinquent stormwater infrastructure repairs. These are the culverts that run beneath and adjacent to our roads.
We already had to fund such expensive projects concerning several road culvert replacements (paying for it out of the general fund) and there are a lot more to come because the infrastructure replacements were never budgeted and implemented in past decades.
Your new 2013 board set up three town hall meetings to solicit citizen opinion when the previous board majority refused to engage the public at all. Likewise, we took pages of notes from the citizen comments at the town hall meetings as well as making personal visits to numerous homes. Many citizen comments were valid points and we incorporated a number of them into our reconstruction of the stormwater infrastructure program.
The redesign of all facets of the program like adding large acre credits and farm pond credits and using a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) to bring decades of dilapidated infrastructure into good repair all came from the consistent voice of the audience.
Your board believes that advancing a permanent infrastructure replacement cycle is both morally right and good economics, because it protects our valued quality of life, protects our safety, helps create more good jobs and protects our environment.
Our agenda needs to focus on attracting high paying jobs, maintaining quality education and making the proper investment in preserving our core infrastructure.
Your board has cited the problems, vigorously solicited public opinion and implemented citizen suggestions into our solutions.
Your board has already had discussions with the town of Tyrone and city of Fayetteville regarding a potential two-year SPLOST for restoring our core infrastructure. I have spoken to the staff at the city of Peachtree City and sent correspondence to the mayor and council.
It is a little more challenging to get a response from Peachtree City. Thus far, I have had personal meetings with council members Imker, Learnard and Dienhart. Those meetings were productive.
Peachtree City has just implemented a 137 percent increase connected to bonded indebtedness in order to make significant repairs to their vital stormwater infrastructure; I just got my bill in the mail last week. They are being accountable.
The three Peachtree City Council members I have spoken to were interested in using the city’s proposed share of the two-year SPLOST to facilitate some badly needed cart path repairs and road resurfacing which they do not have the revenue for in their budget. Thus, the SPLOST would cover certain elements of the core infrastructure that each jurisdiction would need to address the most.
This is not a 10-year “throw-everything-in-the-pot” type of SPLOST proposal. We have seen those before and voted them down. As the citizens in our town hall meetings said, have just a short two-year SPLOST, get exactly the amount of funding you need, make the repairs and move on.
As part of the county’s two-year SPLOST segment, we have pledged to have at least a 90 percent decrease in the stormwater fee for at least four years if the two-year SPLOST is passed.
I have heard preposterous claims in the past about 30 percent of the SPLOST proceeds coming from out-of-town shoppers, but, in all honesty, it would be more like 15 percent. That is still not bad as we would end up paying 100 percent, otherwise.
Bottom line: If all the municipalities agree, we will put a two-year Core Infrastructure SPLOST on the ballot in November.
Chairman, Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Peachtree City, Ga.