F’ville fire vote may cost city $900,000 in road funds

Fayette declines to help pay for Hwy.92/85 traffic realignment cost increases after 3-to-2 anti-consolidation vote

The recent 3-to-2 Fayetteville City Council vote that snuffed out Fayette County’s push to consolidate city and county fire departments also may have cost the city nearly $900,000 in county help to construct a massive traffic realignment, including three roundabouts, at the busy Ga. highways 85/92 and Hood Avenue intersection.

What’s the connection and why the pull-back? The county had planned to implement a 3-mill fire tax to be paid by Fayetteville property taxpayers, a move the county deemed critical to replace fire taxes it lost on land annexed by the city in the Pinewood Atlanta Studios development deal.

The linkage between the roundabout and the fire departments issue is an equation: No consolidation equals no replacement fire taxes. And that equals no reason for the county to allocate $900,000 more in county funds to a city project when the county isn’t getting anything in return.

The cost of the Ga. Highway 92/Hood Avenue realignment project in Fayetteville has gone up while right-of-way acquisition negotiations have dragged out over the past couple of years. Recent open records requests by The Citizen attempted to get a handle on when the conversation to have Fayette County provide additional funds began, the current status of the request and who took part in the conversations.

The documentation did provide some of those answers while shedding light on something else — the rationale on preventing city management and finance staff from sitting in on the initial discussions that centered largely on the fire department consolidation, but which also included the transportation project.

The issue of needing additional funds for the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project appeared to begin when Mayor Greg Clifton in a Jan. 20 letter to Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown said costs in a number of areas had increased and asked the County Commission to consider allocating an additional $952,780 from the 2003 (special purpose local option sales tax) SPLOST revenues toward the project.

In 2010, the county in an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) committed to an amount not to exceed $7.774 million.

For its part in the agreement, Fayetteville was responsible to pay for additional costs acquiring right-of-way, buying construction materials and paying for labor exceeding that amount. A projected cost estimate in March 2012 showed the county’s SPLOST share at $7.634 million and the city’s share at $616,723.

By March 2014, the negotiations over land acquisition continued and, along the way, various costs had risen. The current budget shows an additional $1 million in costs, with the city share at $138,500 and the county’s requested share at $882,531.

County Administrator Steve Rapson earlier this month provided a logical explanation as to why the county might not provide the additional funds needed for the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project, citing setting a precedent. Rapson noted that Fayette’s other municipalities might also seek additional funds if the county provides the nearly $900,000 to Fayetteville.

Information provided by the county pertaining to the 2003 SPLOST shows seven eligible projects outstanding in Peachtree City, though some of those have been dropped.

Tyrone has one project which the Town Council is not supporting and Fayetteville has 12 projects, including those which are a part of the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project. There are additional projects, such as the East Fayetteville Bypass, which are included in the project list in the unincorporated areas.

The issue regarding project funding surfaced in part during the City Council retreat on Feb. 25 and at subsequent meetings. The need for additional funding became linked to the much-publicized fire department consolidation.

The idea was that the city’s nearly $1 million in impact fee revenues, which would go to the county if consolidation occurred, could be swapped for an equal amount of SPLOST dollars so the city could go ahead with the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project.

It was at the Fayetteville City Council retreat in late February that the county made a bid for the city’s fire department. The proposal followed one two years earlier that was turned down by the council.

Though a separate issue, the idea of the county allocating additional SPLOST funds for the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project surfaced during the fire consolidation issue that was not decided until the council turned down the proposal in late April on a 3-2 vote.

Wanting additional information on how the conversation about the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project unfolded, The Citizen made requests for that information to the city and county. As expected, the mention of the transportation project was part of the much larger consolidation issue.

The documentation, and subsequent questions posed to council members, showed that the initial discussions were held in meetings with Rapson, Brown, Fire Chief David Scarbrough and one or two council members in individual meetings. Most on the council said the meetings occurred two or more weeks after the Feb. 25 retreat. Council members agreed that the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project was not discussed at the private meetings.

It should be noted that a meeting of one or two council members and other local elected officials and staff is not uncommon. What was of note, however, was some of the information contained in the documentation that revealed that city finance staff and City Manager Joe Morton had not been included in the meetings between council members, Brown and the county’s chief administrator.

That raises questions since it is the job of the city manager and finance staff to know all the details relating to anything involving city projects. Morton, finance director Lynn Robinson and assistant finance director Ellen Walls have approximately 60 years of combined of experience with city finances in their respective fields.

Morton in a March 28 email to council members said, “Gentlemen, I was informed this week by Steve Rapson that he and Chairman Brown would be meeting with our mayor and council members individually over the next few days to discuss the fire consolidation. I appreciate Steve notifying me about these meetings as I was not aware of these meetings. I asked to be included in these meetings so that I would have some knowledge of what was being presented and discussed, but my request was denied. I was informed that staff would be updated at a later time.

”At this point I don’t know who has met with the county and what information has been shared,” Morton wrote. “I do know that city staff is now beginning to get questions about the fire consolidation from council members and we simply are not in any position to answer questions from you, not having any knowledge of what information has been shared.

“I would respectfully request that you hold your questions until after all council members have met with the county and staff has been presented the information as well. We can then address all questions in a systematic and comprehensive manner. I would also request that all questions be addressed through my office so that I can ensure the proper response,” Morton wrote.

Asked about the denial of his request, Morton on May 6 said he initially made the request to the county but was denied, being told that Brown and Clifton wanted only the city’s elected officials at the meetings. Morton said he then reached out to mayor pro-tem Paul Oddo, who indicated that staff would be included at a later date.

Oddo later voted in favor of consolidating the two departments. Clifton had no vote, but was vocally in favor of consolidation.

Clifton on May 12 was asked why Morton and city finance staff had been excluded from the initial meetings.

“It was more of a situation of putting (them) after us instead of before us. And (Morton) may have been a little miffed at that,” Clifton said.

Asked why not include Morton or the finance staff in one of the meetings with council members, Clifton said, “I didn’t think of it at the time, but it sounds like a pretty good question.”

Pertaining to the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project, Morton in an April 3 email to council members, city finance staff and Fire Chief Alan Jones said, “City and county staff met today to review the fire and water service consolidation proposals. Mayor Clifton was also in attendance at this meeting.”

Morton then provided an overview of the consolidation discussion and a timeline for public meetings on the issue. Included in the review was the statement, “Hood/Hwy. 92 additional funding request and Fire Impact Fee funds transfer to county are two separate issues and should not be tied together with this consolidation plan.”

Morton in the email also noted a number of considerations for consolidating the city’s water service with the county which would require several months to accomplish.

Prior to the April 23 vote by the council not to consolidate fire services, Brown in an April 19 email to Oddo addressed the consolidation issues that Oddo stated in an April 18 email to Brown. One of Brown’s topics dealt with the outcome of failing to consolidate fire services and “the inability to do the Hood Avenue million-to-million swap.”

Brown later in that email had comments about former council members who had attended the joint city/county fire consolidation meeting held on April 9 and were very outspoken in their opposition to consolidation. Brown in the email also had comments pertaining to the city’s staffing and financial status.

“Emotions aside, (consolidation) is both a strategic and financial win for the citizens of Fayetteville. Plus, we all know that consolidation is the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver fire services to our constituents. Your predecessors, the ones who would like to see you fail and hope that you will give in to their pressure, know it is the most efficient and cost-effective delivery method or they would not have agreed with combined EMS and E-911, right? The (former Mayor Ken) Steele, (former Councilman Larry) Dell, (former Councilman Walt) White and (former Councilman Al) Hovey-King philosophy is it’s only wrong when the current City Council does it. Letting hypocrites influence your governing strategy is a really bad idea. In order for the county to succeed, we need a fully-functioning city of Fayetteville. Right now, from a staffing and financial perspective, the city is running on three tires and a quarter of a tank of gas This is your moment to take control and bring it back,” Brown said.

As for the Hwy. 92/Hood Avenue project, there are a few more small parcels to secure prior to any construction being possible. The city, too, will have to evaluate the potential of either scaling back the project or finding additional revenue sources to move it forward.

Night Train
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History Lesson of Fayette EMS

In the 1970's the County and the City volunteers ran the EMS so it was a joint venture from the beginning. One of the first EMS services delivered in Fayette County was by CJ Mowell. He used a hearse to pick up pts and transport them. There was not a lot of medical care being provided back in those days just pick up and transport. Later the County and City received a grant and purchased 2 ambulances. One ran out of the city of Fayetteville and I beleive the other ran out of Peachtree City. At some point in the late 70's to early 80's the county took on the EMS delivery and began to manage it for the City of Fayetteville and the County. Even in the Mid 80's the EMS relied on volunteers to assist with the delivery of service. I am not a historian but I feel pretty confident this is the way it was in the early days.

firekmm
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county EMS

The county has always provided EMS services to the city of Fayetteville!!

firekmm
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county EMS

The county has always provided EMS services to the city of Fayetteville!!

americanpatriots
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Brown bashers

Do you people have a life outside of your constant negative blogging about every subject under the sun?

Do you really think we care what you have to say about anything?

Get a life and get a grip on reality!

Your favorite guy Logsdon lost and the voters opinion of that loser should be clear to all of you.

NUK_1
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americanpatriots: He doesn't care about...well, yeah he does
americanpatriots wrote:

Do you people have a life outside of your constant negative blogging about every subject under the sun?

Do you really think we care what you have to say about anything?

Get a life and get a grip on reality!

Your favorite guy Logsdon lost and the voters opinion of that loser should be clear to all of you.

Whose favorite guy? Anyone running against Brown? Do you really think Logsdon has a big fan base in FC? He was chosen because Haddix is (deleted) and Brown has a poor track record he3's trying to repair piece by piece.

Were you thinking the same thing when Logsdon trounced Brown by over 60% and then Ramsey did even better against Brown? Were you telling Steve Brown and his supporters to just give it up and "get a grip on reality? Or, did you tell him to change his positions entirely and we'll elect you because we could care less about principled politicians whatsoever?

Where was your loudmouth after Brown got destroyed twice? I didn't see you posting here telling him to get the hell out or his supporters to go away.

It's ironic how you state that "no one cares" and then you respond like it really bothers you. No one forces you to read this place yet you whine about it. To that I say,in your own words, "get a life and a grip on reality."

You seem to be very unhappy here

Husband and Fat...
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AP

I wonder how your friend Ms. Watts felt certifying the votes. Lol

americanpatriots
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Husband and father of 2 re. your comment about Ms. Watts

certifying the vote. I find that really funny. Great sense of timing and humor!

Night Train
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Steve Brown Bashing!

The only thing I would like to see from Steve Brown is an open honest no behind the closed door leader. Steve does have good idea's but I think the way he handles some topics could be handled differently. And one more thing, I don't trust most politicians, it's not just Steve Brown I question. Look at the Mayor of Fayetteville Greg Clifton, he might as well be working for Fayette County because I can assure you he does not have the best interest of the Fayetteville residence at the top of his list. He was going to give away his Fire Department for an intersection and all I can say to that is WOW.

Night Train
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911 and EMS ???

The EMS has been managed by Fayette County for ever (30+ years)and the 911 system was brought together so services would be dispatched quicker and not delayed by having to transfer 911 calls. All of this by the way was discussed in the open and not behind closed doors. I don't think people are crying about it, they just want it to be transparent and open.
Ken Steele is not even in the discussion so lets hold those that are in office NOW accountable for their behavior.

johenry
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crying times

Hey did mayor Ken Steele consolidate EMS and 911the with the county???

Now it's bad??? Hypocrisy maybe???

Oh the whining when someone holds them accountable!!!

MWF
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Steve Brown: No Class

"In order for the county to succeed, we need a fully-functioning city of Fayetteville. Right now, from a staffing and financial perspective, the city is running on three tires and a quarter of a tank of gas This is your moment to take control and bring it back,” Brown said."

This comment by Steve Brown shows a total lack of class and professionalism. Do you not realize the City of Fayetteville fared quite well through the recent financial crisis compared to many cities and counties? Have you not read articles in this very newspaper commending the work of the city staff in predicting the coming crisis and preparing for it in a timely manner? Where is your proof of any deficiency by city staff or impending financial doom?

Mr. Brown dares to refer to others as hypocrites? Note how quick he was to jump into the photo op during the award presentation for the Pinewood project. Now he is whining that the annexation of the Pinewood area into the city is hurting the county. You can't have it both ways.

As someone else commented, he is like a child who did not get his way on the fire consolidation and now he wants to take his toys (or his award) and go home. Immature revenge trip.

Robert W. Morgan
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Actually he can have it both ways - and has, for years

Being outed as a habitual hypocrte is only bad in the private sector - you know, where you go to work every day, since they have standards and expectations and possibly even some goals and objectives for personal performance.

In the public sector of government, saying and doing whatever based upon which way the wind is blowing, has been tolerated, then overlooked and by now - expected. People simply don't care - or at the least the overwhelming majority does not. How else can you explain a Brown and an Obama getting elected a second time?

Night Train
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Meetings with buddies

This entire process was cooked up by Mayor Clifton and Steve Brown and they used the knowledge the Steve Rapson has to make the numbers look bad for Fayetteville and good for the County. Open and honest is a good way to be but that is not how you all handled this business at all. Not including the city manager and his financial staff was an indication of how this was going to work.

Now that the vote to not consolidate has taken place, lets look at what has happened since then. HEADLINES: The County May Reduce Fire Aid to Fayetteville. This is like the little kid that did not get his way and all of a sudden picks up his ball and goes home. Keep in mind that the City and County respond in each others area when needed. This is not a one way street gentlemen. It appears that your threat of reducing aid with Fayetteville will impact your citizens as well. ISO rating will change for the County just as it will with the City. Your citizens on the east side will suffer because instead of a fire truck being on scene in 3-5 minutes on Callaway Road, it will be 7-10 minutes maybe longer before a fire truck gets there. Tell that resident why you thought it was a good idea for his house to burn down so you could make a political power play.

Next HEADLINE: Fayetteville Fire Vote may cost city $900,000 in road fund. You do know there are anti bullying laws right? That is all Fayette County is doing, trying to bully the city. Mayor Clifton try standing on your own two feet and defend your city and stop making deals behind closed doors.

This entire situation stinks and if there was ever a time for an ethics board review it would be now.

johenry
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Cry babies

The typical mrobinson liberal dribble. He just whines and whines.

Again people are tired of the constant negativism from the internet trolls.

upanatom
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AMEN

Same Brown bashers as before, minus Nuk and Mudcat. Brown proved this week that he was popular enough in PTC to win the BOC Republican nomination without a runoff.

And if he ever runs for public office again, the same folks will still be resurrecting what they thought of his first term as Mayor of PTC (even though it failed in 2010 and 2014).

Let's face it...the public majority likes what Steve Brown has done, and his critics just can't see that keeping his name before the public actually increases support for him.

I'm surprised that we haven't gotten more criticism against public officials who have alcohol or drug problems. Better yet, not doing much about it.

Folks, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, critics follow a good leader like flies on honey.

mrobinson_ptc
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1,319 is not a "majority" of the public

I'm surprised you think anybody cares about any of our opinions at all. The majority of people in Fayette County picked "don't care".

Husband and Fat...
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You're right about one thing

For being such an educated area the turn out to vote was sad

mrobinson_ptc
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Wow. Just wow. Anybody want a do-over?

Two quotes stand out:

Letting hypocrites influence your governing strategy is a really bad idea. - Steve Brown in an email to Paul Oddo.

There has not been a more open and transparent government in the history of Fayette County than under the Board chaired by Steve Brown. - Steve Brown's campaign website.

Seriously, folks. Read this article again. Open government = don't bother bringing the professional staff from the City on board in the beginning, but certainly have the County administrator and Fire Chief in the room. That's open and transparent.

Resistance is futile.

SOMEONE tell Harold Logsdon to run as an independent and try again - he might get a few more votes come general election time. It almost writes itself!

Husband and Fat...
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Fayetteville city council

I believe in a previous article on the subject, the county did advise the city about the possibility of losing the immediate fire assistance and this article states they knew about the roundabout funding too. Don't know why Mr. Morton didn't get the memo. Maybe someone thought they told him before taking a trip to Augusta.

Truthfully, I don't understand why Commissioners Oddo, Barlow, Ognio, and McCarty aren't trying to mediate a compromise, since they represent some who will be affected. Or maybe I do know why they haven't said a word, but I won't go there.

Both sides are affected by the Pinewood annexation and the lack of fees coming in at the moment. But it's ok, they will sit down and work it out, it's just business the impact fees and taxes don't cover.

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