Commissioners Smith, Maxwell must answer for West Bypass

I came across an old article dated July 16, 2009 where Jack Smith was quoted as saying, “Voters approved the (West Fayetteville) bypass in the last SPLOST. The money is there. the only thing that can stop that project from moving forward now is a court order.”

Yet, seven months later, the project has stalled. It’s now in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where it has been sitting since early March.

According to Mr. Joe Rivera, whom I spoke with at the COE, the county’s Wetlands 404 Permit Application was incomplete, and before it could be reviewed, the Army would have to conduct a staff meeting, which would take into consideration the information lacking, and the barrage of comments by the citizens of Fayette County.

I left the conversation with the distinct impression that the COE had other matters far more pressing, and that a public hearing would be required before approval of the permit could be considered.

Then, if the project goes to EPA for an Environmental Impact Statement, we’re talking about years. If it doesn’t, there’s a distinct possibility of a lawsuit. So either way, my opinion is that it’s not going to “move forward” any faster than a snail.

For well over a year, the citizens of Fayette County have complained to the Fayette County Commission over the folly of the project, all but begging them to come forward publicly to discuss why they felt that the WFB is worth its price.

Now, it looks as though Messrs. Smith and Maxwell will finally have to address the WFB discord as a red hot campaign issue, so don’t look for either commissioner to tout it anytime soon.

While it may be technically true that the WFB passed as one component of the 2004 SPLOST, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who can remember voting in favor of it. In fact, if anyone does remember the WFB being on the SPLOST ballot, I wish they would send in a comment to that effect.

It’s obvious that you can get a project pork-barreled by placing it into a bag of tricks. But once that bag of tricks is opened and intelligent voters see what what was pulled out, they won’t be stupid enough to fall for the same thing again.

This is exactly what happened when the 2009 SPLOST showed up, this time with the detail that was missing in 2004. The voters had just plain lost confidence in the new “bundling” procedure.

I believe that the commissioners have distanced themselves from the WFB issues, especially since the last SPLOST failed. What better reply could they have than “you voted for it?”

Mr. Smith once sent us an email reply stating that if we wanted to know what’s really going on, then we should attend the commission’s meetings. I suppose he’s correct if we’re quick enough to catch the tricks there before they get into the bag.

That makes it indeed disappointing that the commission’s meeting room is too small to accommodate the tens of thousands of voters in Fayette County.

Steve Smithfield

Fayetteville, Ga.