Commissioner-elect Brown: Stop West Bypass, hold on to county cash

The letters to the editor in the local newspapers regarding government at all levels can best be described by the catch phrase from the Verizon cell phone commercials: “Can you hear me now?”

The establishment frontrunners at all levels are finding things out the hard way. Republican John Oxendine was leading all of the polls in the months heading into our gubernatorial primary election and he finished in the middle of the pack. Karen Handel leapt to the head of the line because she was viewed as an outsider, least affected by the influences of the non-caring establishment.

There is always a lot of wheeling and dealing going on in government at all levels. I have personally fought a few of the local back room deals locally.

Allen McCarty and I ran our campaigns on a clearly defined set of issues. We told you, the voters, how the current county commissioners voted on the issues and we told you how we would vote the opposite way. There was no gray area, no political smoke screen, or fancy language leading to double entendre.

After being given two clear-cut options, the voters made their decision. Between the 2009 SPLOST vote and the recent election, there is an obvious voter mandate. Think back to the Verizon commercials.

After writing a column in the newspaper for quite a while, I had received a great deal of public feedback on local issues. I spoke to people at the grocery stores and the schools and everywhere in between. That direct line to the public showed me there was a significant level of dissatisfaction on certain key issues, namely the West Fayetteville Bypass, the mass transit issue and taxation.

After the election, I was taken aback by rumors that the remaining three commissioners were not going to respect the wishes of the voters, again, and work to retain their stances in favor of the West Fayetteville Bypass and keeping Fayette in the regional mass transit plan.

Will they actually go against the will of the voters? I have no idea. We will have to wait and see what they do. However, I will publicly state before you all that I am willing to work well before January with anyone on the Board of Commissioners who desires to move forward on these specific issues where the people have spoken. Those commissioners working to that end will have my gratitude, Commissioner-elect McCarty’s gratitude and the support of the public.

Even though I do not take office until January, I strongly urge the current commissioners and heads of the various county departments to withhold any expenditure which is not deemed absolutely necessary. The focus should be on holding as much cash on hand as possible with the significant chance of the economy taking a double dip.

I follow two sets of economists, both liberal and conservative. This past week was the first time both groups have expressed real fears of our economy stalling and falling yet again.

We are at a point beyond fiscal conservatism, possibly heading toward fiscal austerity. The obvious choice is not increasing spending, but our latest choice must be saying “no” to some items currently in the new budget.

Taking a rigorous look at the budget now and determining whether we can survive without a particular item, and compiling a list of those items, may well help the county prevent extreme measures concerning employee losses, service collapse and the need for increased revenue to sustain essential county services in a year or two.

The Georgia Legislature found out their coveted rainy day fund disappeared almost instantly once the revenue streams dried up. There is a distinct possibility we will see if we can survive a second dip with our reserve funds depleted too. While there is a definite possibility the state may receive another federal bailout, our local governments will not be as fortunate.

We must think in terms of being in a position where the state government begins to run dry and they hand down some of their fiscal burdens to the local level. Items once covered by the state budget may fall on our shoulders.

The time to be getting serious is right now. Wasting vital funds on useless projects like the West Fayetteville Bypass is certainly not the answer.

Steve Brown
Fayette Commissioner-elect, Post 4
stevebrownptc@ureach.com
Peachtree City, Ga.

pips1414
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You made a good point in bringing up the deteriorating economic climate we're seeing. We are making noise about the WFB because we don't want to see $50,000,000 of our tax dollars wasted, especially in a bad economy. While Smith and Maxwell spoke in favor of the WFB, we don't know about the three remaining commissioners. For all we know, they may be more in favor of it than either one. Commissioners Frady and Maxwell attended the September 16, 2008 Open House Meeting where the WFB was presented to the public. Since Mr. Frady has not publicly spoken about the WFB since to my knowledge, it would appear that he favors it.

I agree that the money could well be put to better use, but once the wheels of politics start rolling, they're hard to stop. However, the law says that SPLOST dollars must go only to approved SPLOST projects. We, the taxpayers, approved a big package of SPLOST projects from which the commissioners selected the West Bypass. The WFB crosses eight wetlands, so by law, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers must get involved, approving a 404 Permit to cross those wetlands. The Commissioners-elect have sent the Army a letter, explaining that they oppose the WFB, and were elected by the people because of their opposition. They also explained that the road was not in the public interest, and why they believe that the county will be defying certain environmental principles if the road goes through.

Other commenters have stated that roads must be built before they are needed. While that may be true, there must first be solid documentation that the selected route will effectively move projected traffic. Can you imagine how a two lane road in West Fayetteville ending nowhere will move enough traffic to relieve congestion in downtown Fayetteville? It's a joke. They may just as well have proposed a six lane tollway from Tyrone to Brooks to Woolsey in order to handle projected West and Southside growth.

Unfortunately, the sitting commissioners have been saying that the WFB is the answer to congestion, but refuse to discuss the specifics of how the selected route is the answer. That's why their handling of the road leaves so much to be desired. Nothing will ever improve until they are finally convinced that the public just won't put up with what they've been doing any more.

Yes, the econonmy, lost jobs, empty strip malls, residential building permits down to nil all need to be reviewed. I understand that Commissioners-elect McCarty and Brown are already taking a hard look at Fayette County's economy, and will make that a priority when they go into office.

But some folks just don't understand the value of a dollar.

Courthouserules
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Steve Brown: wrong

on Handel! Of course the former Governor has been governor for two years!
I don't know though where he is going to get the money to do what he says he will do! He won't! Handel or Deal would do even less. They just want the job.

I support most of your actions, but not all of your "proposals."

Tell me how the Splost money for the WFB will be (not should be) spent if not for that road?

Roads need to be built before they are needed. Just as Georgia should have been doing something about water, bridges, dams, old Interstates, most school systems; and combining of county managements, Fire and police groups, erosion, foreclosed empty homes, jobs, etc.

These are city and county problems because that is where the people live that can make those improvements.

bringinabroom
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It was Smith's arrogance in

It was Smith's arrogance in refusing to talk about the road and not the road itself that did him in. Bye, bye Jack-- go play golf.

ginga1414
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Bringinabroom is right about Jack Smith. A great many of the problems we are facing with local, state, and federal government is due to the fact that folks have not been as involved with our government as we should have. We have been too busy with our lives to realize what is happening around us.

If we don't take the time to educate ourselves on governmental issues and question our representatives, our governmental egos will grow so large that we will find ourselves with rulers instead of representatives of the people. It is of great importance that we question and analyze the decisions our representatives make. It is important that we have representatives who are willing to discuss issues with us, the people. We are paying these folks salaries. They are spending our money. The absolute least they can do is discuss our concerns and the issues. The least they can do is give us answers to questions we have regarding how their decisions will affect our lives. Jack Smith and Eric Maxwell would not do any of those things.

As far as the West Fayetteville Bypass (WFB) is concerned, it is slated to plow through very nice neighborhoods. As of right now, those neighborhoods are filled stable, well maintained homes. The WFB will fragment and therefore destabilize those homes and properties. The value of those homes and properties will be diminished even further than what the economy has caused. Therefore, the county tax base will go down even further.

The WFB would divert commercial traffic away from the already depressed commercial district of Fayetteville.

All phases of our government are in a survival mode, at the present time. From all indications, we will remain in a survival mode for quite some time to come. That is why we have to be very diligent in choosing how we spend our money. $50,000,000 would go a long way in maintaining the roads, streets and bridges we already have. It is not the time to risk putting millions upon millions of dollars into a two year project when our economy is as unstable as it is now.

None of what I have just said even touches the many destructive ecological and environmental issues surrounding the WFB. None of our present county officials have seen fit to address those issues. None of our present county officials have seen fit to give the citizens of this county documented facts to justify the destruction of neighborhoods, our environment, our ecology, or our property values with the construction of the WFB. Don't you think that you would want an explanation from the county as to why it would be necessary to destroy your home and property? Don't you think you would want facts and figures that would justify the county taking half of your property, destroying your ancestral property, or bulldozing your half million dollar home? I want and feel I have a right to answers to and justification for all those issues.

There are some things that are just too huge for me to even tackle. However, I do feel qualified and compelled to take on my local government and the WFB. Please forgive yet another of my epistles/diatribes concerning the WFB. It doesn't take much to wind me up when it comes to the WFB. I've been fighting this thing for the last 25 years of my life and sometimes I don't feel that I have much life left.

conditon55
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West Fayetteville ByPass the ruin of us all

I have read for weeks about how the WFByPass will be the ruin of us all. And I am sorry I do not see how.

It is as if the minds of the people are siezed by the devil and now they cannot think.

It is hard for me to imagine that in these difficult time that this is the most pressing issue facing our region.

I take a ride down dividend drive and I see site are site that once housed business and it now stands idle. I wonder why there is no discussion of what we can do to re-energize our small business base and our tax base.

Instead of relentless criticism of the road - how about a liitle recipe for economy revitalizeation of the county but filling the once active areas that used to provide revenue to the city an county?

Isn;t it ture that all road projects go through a process to be approved at the state level and all projects are reviewed and go through an approval process? Who approved the road and when?

I thin kthat the road plan was put in place during a more propersous time. We have seen many mistake along those lines where planners planned based on project growth in the county that has now collapsed with the econmoic downturn brought on by the general economic collapse.

These long winded stories blasting Jack Smith seem pointless to me. it is astounding to me that it is enough to get elected to office in Fayette County.

pips1414
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Let me spell it out for you.

The EFB and the WFB were two of many, many 2003 SPLOST projects approved. None of the projects appeared on the actual SPLOST ballot by name. SPLOST means "slick politics leaving our selections terminated".

All SPLOST projects passed, but not all SPLOST projects were funded. The WFB wasn't funded initially. According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, it didn't qualify for state or federal funding (scored too low for that much money), so only local funding was left.

The commissioners funded the EFB, spent $600,000 on it, then ran out of money. Then they spent a great deal more money on consultants, but no traffic study was ever done on the WFB. Still,it got approved.

SOMEBODY in the county then transferred the EFB money to the WFB in lieu of considering any of the other unfunded projects. No records are available as to who did it, but I think they'll be gone by the end of the year.

There are two EFB alternatives that weren't considered. One follows Corinth Rd. and would not cost as much as the (most expensive) one considered. There are many folks who use State 85 to go North to I-75 from South Fayette County, and they could bypass Fayetteville. Clayton County already uses State 85, and could also bypass Fayetteville going South.If any one road in Fayetteville needs a bypass, it's State 85. Factor out State 85 and there is no Fayetteville.

The West Bypass ends at State 92. Completing it and modifying Westbridge Rd. would do nothing but open up the Old National Highway area of College Park and Riverdale to Fayette County. There are no arterial connections to any Interstate Highway from the WFB. The people taking it North to get on State 74 or I-85 would have to exit on Sandy Creek Rd. and deal with a railroad crossing.

The voters were blindsided by the WFB and supported the candidates who opposed it. Check out the huge margins of victory for Brown and McCarty in those precincts on/near the WFB alignment. Their election created a stir that will be felt for years to come.

I'm not saying how to spend the $50 million saved by stopping the project in any particular way. But don't you suppose that we have some roads, streets and bridges in the county that need improving or fixing? $50 million will go a long way in that direction.Now is not the time to be spending that kind of money on a wasteful project.

It's great having no Interstate highway here, but preserving our rural characteristics will get harder as time goes on. The price to be paid for Interstate access and major shopping centers is surrendering our rural characteristics. Preservation and Progress must go hand in hand to ensure that development doesn't get out of hand. So far, Fayette County has done that. That's why people like it here.

pips1414
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Our Mandate is Fiscal Austerity

In this day and time, we're hearing about all kinds of government programs getting cut back. It takes over a third of our income taxes just to pay the interest on on our national debt. It just doesn't make sense for us to be cutting back on essential programs like number of teachers, education, etc., and at the same time spending $50 million on a road we don't need. In another comment I made, I brought up the point that the West Bypass actually is not a road to nowhere. It is a road leading directly into the taxpayers' pocketbooks. I'm all for building roads that will actually serve a needed purpose. But enriching West Fayetteville developers is not that purpose.

The problem is that there is great resistance on the part of sitting government officials to admit that a current project should be scrapped. That's why we never got any response to justifying the bypass except in the most general, subjective terms. It is hoped that the current commissioners will take heed of the recent election issues and reconsider their position on the bypass. Can you imagine what the public, so much against the project, will do if it is continued?

If you don't want this to happen, start writing and calling the commissioners and attending commissioners meetings. The reason the bypass got included in the 2003 SPLOST package was that nobody knew it was going to happen. The reason they didn't know was that they did not attend commissioners meetings where the referendum was discussed.

Commissioner Smith once made the comment that the voters voted for the bypass, and they need to attend commissioners meetings to know what is going on. He was right, but in voting for the bypass, the public voted for all the other 2003 SPLOST projects that were never activated, too. In the final analysis, SPLOST is a way of getting certain projects approved without publicly identifying them. Yet, the process by which the West Bypass was bestowed priority over other SPLOST projects still remains a mystery. Was the West Bypass priority ever put to a vote by the commissioners? Was it done by one person? Who actually activated the West Bypass? That still remains a mystery

Courthouserules
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PIPS

I am sorry but I understand NOTHING about what you wrote above except you want more teachers and such!Did a SPLOST pass to build the road or not?

You do know that keeping all or hiring more teachers, cops, firemen, office personnel, etc., is paid by TAX money do you not? More debt.
Road money will never be used to pay people on the tax payroll.

You just have to be careful who you vote for!

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