County commissioners’ ‘blame it on the voters’ is unbelievable

I find myself absolutely amazed at the hucksterism used by the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. Their theme is “blame it on the voters” and not them.

The commissioners do something we don’t like and they say it’s our fault. For example, regular people like you and me can’t speak at a commission meeting when an agenda item is being discussed because, first of all, we are just ignorant citizens (we did vote the current commissioners into office so maybe there is credence there). Secondly, if the people are allowed to speak when an agenda item is called, the meeting might last another 15 to 20 minutes longer.

They can’t tolerate the meeting lasting another 15 minutes as they might not make it home in time to watch the beginning of “American Idol.”

Commission Chairman Jack Smith and Fayetteville Mayor Ken Steele, as our representatives to the regional government, voted in favor of a regional transit plan called Concept 3 that called for transit buses routes all through Fayette County from Clayton County, Henry County and Coweta County.

But even though you can read the meeting minutes with your own eyes and see how they voted, Smith and Steele claim they are being misrepresented. They say it’s our fault for looking up their votes and not understanding their intentions (whatever those intentions might be because they never came back home and told anyone they voted for the mass transit plan).

Back in February of 2000, the county commissioners (a different Board of Commissioners than who we have now) decided to move forward with building a bypass, the East Fayetteville Bypass.

Later, County Commissioners Greg Dunn, Herb Frady, Linda Wells, A.G. VanLandingham, and Peter Pfeifer proposed a Transportation SPLOST which just barely passed in 2004. Those commissioners also agreed the priority transportation project they could substantiate building was the East Fayetteville Bypass. They began spending SPLOST funds on engineering and permits for the East Fayetteville Bypass (the project the county and the cities agreed was the top priority).

According to former Commissioner Peter Pfeifer, “The ‘Old Commission’ — Dunn, Wells, Frady, Pfeifer and Horgan — initiated Phase I of the ‘West Bypass’ (the part almost completed). The purpose was to improve traffic movement around the hospital. The ‘Old Commission’ DID NOT place a priority on the rest; Phases 2 and 3 of the ‘West’ [Bypass]. That commission DID PLACE A PRIORITY on the East Bypass” (My upper case emphasis.).”

Then enters the Board of Commissioners composed of Jack Smith, Eric Maxwell, Lee Hearn, Herb Frady and Robert Horgan around 2008. All of a sudden the project that had always been the top priority (the East Fayetteville Bypass) was wiped out overnight. This was also the same time period when our county commissioners thought it was no longer important to listen to their constituents.

Without any warning and without any public vote and without soliciting any public comment, the new commissioners decided the priorities had changed (or should I say their priorities became more important than the county’s priorities).

Even though we had already begun spending on the East Fayetteville Bypass, the top priority of the county and cities before and after the 2004 SPLOST vote, the new bunch thought they knew better and switched to the West Fayetteville Bypass.

It takes a whole bunch of arrogance to think, as a newly elected group of commissioners, that you know better than the two previous county commissions and all of the voters who had been told the East Fayetteville Bypass was the top priority.

Chairman Jack Smith and Commissioner Maxwell made up a bunch of pitiful excuses as to why they chose to personally realign the voters’ priorities for them.

All five of the current commissioners blame you, the voters, for their rearranging the priorities from the East Fayetteville Bypass (the most useful road) to the West Fayetteville Bypass (the developer special interest pork barrel project). They say YOU WANT the West Fayetteville Bypass instead of the top priority project of the East Fayetteville Bypass.

Commissioners Jack Smith, Eric Maxwell, Lee Hearn, Herb Frady and Robert Horgan want you to believe that YOU are to blame and not them even though they can CHOSE to fund any other SPLOST project they desire.

The voters trounced the 2009 SPLOST that included phase three of the West Fayetteville Bypass. The voters also elected the two anti-West Fayetteville Bypass candidates. So why it is our fault the West Fayetteville Bypass is being constructed?

Whenever our Take Back Fayette County PAC showed groups of people the county map with the path of the West Fayetteville Bypass on it, they threw their arms in disgust. The only thing the West Fayetteville Bypass is good for is creating roads to build more new homes, nothing else.

If the lame duck Chairman Jack Smith has any integrity, he will quit the board of directors of the Bank of Georgia. A lot of people are assuming that his reckless planning changes are setting him up for a financial payoff at the bank in years to come. The potential for conflict of interest has always existed and Smith should do the right thing and resign from the bank board. He is truly a small-minded person.

Of course if Smith and his bank do end up making a fortune in the years to come off of the West Fayetteville Bypass, that will be, as the commissioners like to say, your fault too.

I’m sad that I missed the meeting this past Thursday, Sept. 23. I understand my fellow TBFC PAC members were out in force. We will prevail in defeating Frady, Horgan and Hearn in 2012.

David Barlow

President, Take Back Fayette County PAC

Fayetteville, Ga.

ginga1414
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Fayette County's Independent Appraiser! HaHaHa!

We received our letter pertaining to the "WEST FAYETTEVILLE BY-PASS PROJECT, PHASE II" yesterday from the County's "retained" right of way agency.

Again, it was on Fayette County letterhead.

In part the letter said, "Fayette County has retained the services of my firm, Dianna Hunt & Associates, Inc. to handle the acquisition phase for this project. In the near future you will be hearing from an appraiser. As soon as the property valuation process is completed by the appraiser, we will be ready to initiate formal discussions with you with respect to the property requirements needed from your property for this project."

At one point in this lengthly process, homeowners were assured that an "independent appraiser" would place a value on our homes and property. I do not call a company "retained" by the county government "independent."

The letter closed by saying, "We look forward to working with you in connection with this most worthwhile project." I DON'T THINK SO! The County's "retained" right of way agency feels that this is a "most worthwhile project." That sounds an awful lot like they are working at the "behest" of our county officials. We all remember when Jack Smith told us that County Administrator Jack Krakeel and County Attorney Scott Bennett work at his (Smith's) "behest."

I can absolutely "ASSURE" the county government that when their agency is "ready to initiate formal discussions" with me with respect to "the acquisition" of my property their "formal discussions" will be conducted with my attorney.

I have absolutely no faith that any of our county officials have any intentions of standing by their assurances. Remember we were also assured by our Fayette County Public Works Director that the county WOULD NOT acquire property until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grants the 404 Permit.

The County acquired property last year. As of this past week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HAS NOT granted the 404 Permit and they said that they are considering the requirement of a Public Hearing on the WFB.

I would be foolish to sell my property to the County without an officially signed 404 Permit. The County's and Jack Smith's "verbal" assurances mean nothing.

Courthouserules
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ginga

Would like to know who should hire an "Independent appraiser," if not the County!

I knew money was behind this fight!

Now you alone have a lawyer, huh? Thought the group had some lawyers?

If you are depending on the Corps to stop this project forever you are dreaming on a cloud.
All they will do is make it more expensive to build.

I do hope though that they aren't taking your house (home) away from you and intend to tear it down! I hope it is just a right-of-way.
It is also hard to get a huge price in these times from "broke counties."

Won't you just give it up, Mrs. Quixote?

ginga1414
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Courthouse, As In Arbitration Proceedings

To my way of thinking, an "independent appraiser" would be an appraiser that was chosen by representatives from both sides of the issue. However, the County has not seen fit to discuss the issues with any homeowners other than the ones whose homes they will destroy.

The County doesn't want my home but they will run the road through my property and destroy the value of my home along with the value of other folks homes. For example, would you want to buy a home where there is a major thoroughfare running so close to the house that you could practically reach out and touch the traffic going by? I wouldn't. The homes in question are high end, well maintained homes in nice quiet neighborhoods. If I wanted to sell my home, which I do not, the value of my home and property will be greatly diminished after the road goes through my back yard. The road will greatly diminish the value of many other homes and make it impossible for those folks to sell their homes, as well. Therefore, many homeowners will be left holding the bag, so to speak.

We are not the only homeowners who have retained a lawyer to represent our interests. Other homeowners along the route of the WFB have and are in the process of hiring attorneys also.

Our group, the WFBC, has retained another attorney to represent us in a Federal lawsuit. There are people throughout the County and from other states who are committed to helping finance that lawsuit.

My husband and I own 15 acres of land. I inherited another 5 acres from my mother which adjoins the 15 acres. So this isn't just a matter of a little right of way. The Bypass will span the entire length of my property. I will end up with remnant property on the other side of the Bypass that will be completely unusable. My property adjoins that of the largest developer on the Bypass. This developer owns approximately 333 acres under two different names, and will be granted 3/4 mile of road frontage for his developments. Yes, he was a contributor to the campaigns of Jack Smith and Eric Maxwell.

When we first got the news about the Bypass impacting our land two years ago, I looked up "eminent domain" attorneys on the Internet. I located a firm in McDonough, Ga. They told me that they would have a conflict of interest representing us, since they also represented Fayette County. They recommended an attorney in PTC, whom I also called. He told me that just about all he did were eminent domain cases against the county. Well, as things turned out, this PTC attorney just happened to be the registered agent for four of the Bypass developer's companies. Moral of the story...get an attorney far away from Fayette County. The WFBC is different. It has its own attorneys who are environmental experts, and they don't deal with eminent domain cases, to my knowledge.

Contrary to what some folks would like to believe, our group consists of intelligent people. And, no, Mrs. Quixote, can't and won't "just give it up." The day that Commissioner Eric Maxwell spoke to me in a very disparaging manner is the day that I said to myself, "It is time to stop being the nice sweet person my Mama and Daddy raised me to be. If you don't stand up for something, you will fall for anything."

As the County Commissioners are blaming the homeowners for this fiasco, they might take a good long hard look at their actions concerning the homeowners. When all the homeowners walked into the County's Open House meeting back in Sept. 2008, they were slapped in the face with "It's a done deal." Then Mr. Maxwell opened his mouth and at that point, the deal was done.

A lot of folks have told me, "You can't fight city hall." If someone doesn't stand up against the injustices perpetrated by government, be it Federal or County governments, we are doomed. I might not be left standing when this whole ordeal is over, but at least I will have tried.

Courthouserules
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ginga1414

I am pleased that you will still have your home and don't intend to move.

It appears now that the amount of the appraisal of your right-of-way land and damages is what is in question. If others have already sold at certain prices, then they will not and can not give you more than the others got in similar areas.

I would guess that the "road frontage" that the developer has is on his own land. Won't there be frontage also on your property?

One more question: It appears that your property must have been re-zoned to home development from maybe farm land?
In the case of already being land for homes, then homes can be built.
If it was farm land with low taxes, then your taxes will quadruple when it is re-zoned.

I suppose your lawyer has explained all this to you?

I don't know what you were offered nor what you want (other than no road) but would you take another offer for considerably more?
You will need it with the law fees of 3-400 dollars and hour.

Last word for me on this!

grassroots
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Who's Keeping The Books

Wow. the County "has retained the services of" Dianna Hunt & Associates, Inc. "This is now the 7th consulting firm since this project was conceived according to county records. The only accountant I know on the board is Jack Smith. Hey Jack. how much tax payer money has been spent on all these firms on a useless project for a road to nowhere that will never be built? Someone who has the time, please ask through Open Records Act the dollar amount. Then maybe I could figure out how to acquire more lots for my zoo world on facebook that's already worth 13 million. Same dream money these fools are using.

Courthouserules
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grass

You had one good point.
This WBP thing sounds like a very good project for one of Cals, or he himself, to get the facts and report about them.

I think he knows though that it is a done deal and a waste of time.

pips1414
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The Truth Will Set You Free

Courthouse Rules, since you now admit that you're a commissioner, how about telling the public just how the proposed WFB alignment of the 2 lane West Bypass is the best way of relieving traffic in Fayetteville, 4 miles away? Don't you guys realize that most folks want to go from Point A to Point B...they're not looking for a Sunday drive in the country. The commissioners won't budge on pushing the WFB for a reason, and it must be a humdinger when it costs them their jobs. Sooner or later all will be revealed.

Courthouserules
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pips1414

You misunderstood about me being a commissioner!
I meant that maybe the only reason someone would want to suffer being a commissioner was to be able to say: "I am a commissioner." Ain't I important?

Your judgments about point A to point B are just that, "your" judgments.
If it connects to 92 it would be a lot better way to I-85. Some improvements are also needed on 92.
Some people look into the future as to needs. Some don't care.

ginga1414
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Courthouse, No Vengeance Here, Just The Facts

Come on now, Courthouse! You "have no idea what the EBP is?" That sounds like Jack Smith's reply to a question concerning the East Bypass during this past summer's Candidate Forum. All along, I've been giving you more credit for basic common sense and awareness than I would give Jack Smith.

At the Candidate Forum, an audience member asked Jack Smith about the feasibility of using "Alternative D" of the East Fayetteville Bypass to route traffic around the Fayetteville area. Jack Smith replied that he didn't know what "Alternative D" was. "Alternative D" is just that, an alternate and FAR LESS COSTLY route to the MOST COSTLY ROUTE of the East Fayetteville Bypass.

Also, at the Candidate Forum, Commissioner Maxwell continually referred to the cost of the East Bypass and how the West Bypass was less expensive. However, neither Smith or Maxwell addressed the fact that when they compared the cost of the East Bypass with the cost of the West Bypass, they were comparing the cost of the entire East Bypass project with just Phase II of the West Bypass. Maxwell referred to his comparisons as common sense. I call it craftiness, deceitfulness, or manipulation of the facts.

Contrary to what Commissioner Maxwell referred to at the Candidate's Forum, there is no common sense in our government. Is it common sense to change from the MOST HIGHLY PRIORITIZED bypass/thoroughfare to one deemed "doesn't rank high enough - too expensive" without being fully aware of the facts?" I DON'T THINK SO! Is it common sense if the Commissioners "don't know" and the public hasn't been made aware of/informed of the facts? I DON'T THINK SO! As I said before, I truly believe it is craftiness, deceitfulness and manipulation of the facts.

ginga1414
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I Have To Change Something I Said

In order to be as completely truthful as possible, I have to change something I said in my condemnation post. I said that the HIRED right of way agency's name was printed in the top right hand corner of the letters folks were receiving. That was wrong. It was my mistake. The letters are being sent to homeowners on Fayette County letterhead. However, the agency's name DOES NOT appear as being printed on the letterhead. That was a copy of a business card that appeared in the top right hand corner of a copied letter one of our WFBC members sent to me.

In my arbitration post, it may have been construed that I was saying that I could reach out and touch the traffic on the WFB from my home. That is not the case. However, it is the case with a neighbor's home.

Please excuse the confusion. I'm not a writer but I would like to be as factual as possible.

ginga1414
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WILL THEY CONDEMN PROPERTY WITHOUT A 404 PERMIT?

Doug, you are absolutely right. The East Bypass was the number one priority. The ARC had proclaimed the West Bypass as not ranking high enough and too expensive. We have the documentation to prove that.

It was under very strange circumstances that one day we all woke up and found that some Fayette County official on some unspecified date under unspecified circumstances decided that the East Bypass should be dropped and the West Bypass should prevail.

Under the Georgia Open Records Act, we have requested records to show who, how, and when the West Bypass became the top priority. The County has not produced any documentation pertaining to those facts. But yet, the County "has retained the services of" Dianna Hunt & Associates, Inc. "to handle the acquisition phase for this project" without a Federal 404 Permit.

Letters are being sent to residents on Fayette County letterhead. These letters have the HIRED Right Of Way Agency printed in the top right hand corner of Fayette County letterhead. The agency is listed as Dianna Hunt & Associates, Inc. of McDonough, Ga. Fayette County Commissioner Lee Hearn is the Director of Public Works for the city of McDonough, Ga. Is this a coincidence? Why is a hired Right Of Way agency sending letters to residence concerning the acquisition of their property on County letterhead? It seems to me that a "retained" agency would use their own letterhead.

The Dianna Hunt & Associates, Inc. right of way agency seems to be in charge of arranging surveys of homeowner's property along the West Bypass. In fact, one of those surveys took place today. Remember now, the County does not have a Federal 404 Permit in hand that will allow them to build the road.

I personally asked Fayette County Public Works Director, Phil Mallon, what would happen to folks' property if the County purchased said property and then the 404 Permit was not granted. He personally told me that the County "would not do that." However, they have purchased property already and they are proceeding to try and arrange the purchase of more property without a Federal 404 Permit.

Once again, FAYETTE COUNTY OFFICIALS, what will happen to homeowners' property if the County purchases said property and then the 404 Permit is denied? Will those homeowners be able to repurchase their property? Under Eminent Domain laws, is it legal for the County to condemn private property when they haven't been granted a Federal 404 Permit to build a road that requires that permit? INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW, FAYETTE COUNTY! However, I have absolutely no hope of having those questions answered. I have NEVER received a straight answer from any of our public officials.

bad_ptc
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ginga1414, If all is what you say it is

then why not simply sue the county or get a judge to issue an injunction?

ginga1414
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bad_ptc, The Federal Gov. Is Involved Now

When Fayette County applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a 404 Permit, the issues revolving around the West Fayetteville Bypass/Parkway became much broader in scope.

On Sept. 14, 2010, The Citizen published an article written by John Munford which said, "Commission Chairman Jack Smith - one of those to be replaced Jan. 1 - said he has been told that the county has received a verbal notification that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would approve a permit for the road, which will require the crossing of several streams including Whitewater Creek."

When Chairman Jack Smith made that statement, he took the issues way past the confines of Fayette County Government. He is now speaking for the Federal Government.

A letter addressing Mr. Smith's statement has been sent to the U.S. Army Crops of Engineers. If the Corps did, in fact, give oral approval for the permit, Fayette citizens need to be advised the name of the individual who did so and when that oral approval took place. We can't understand how a matter which would require written approval and authorized signature can be waived.

ginga1414
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Bad, It's In The Works

The County won't believe us, but if and when the time is right a lawsuit will happen. The law firm has been retained and the finances for the suit are in place.

Courthouserules
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ginga WBP

What is all this promises stuff? It means nothing. Things change except for contracts and sometimes they must change! County officials can not be threatened and cause them to change their mind. They are not afraid. They pay nothing in court, we do. The SPLOST resolved it--they can build what they want to build.

If you don't believe Smith about the Corps OK, then call another County official and ask them! Call the Corps!

All the Corps do is add some protections (cost) and it can proceed.

It will not get you another dime in court for your property. Only the lawyers get paid. Ask them if they will work for 30% of the added money you get?

Doug
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Your points are valid

Every news story I've read on the WFB has the commissioners telling us we voted for the WFB to be constructed. Mr. Barlow is correct when he says everyone was promised the East Fayetteville Bypass as the priority.

When Nuk_1 stops drooling and ranting, maybe he can make some useful comments on the subject.

NUK_1
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What's also "unbelievable" Dbarlow.....

...is that you have lived in FC all of about 6 months, came on here and whacked everyone over the head with the Bible repeatedly and some bizarre biblical verses until people got sick of your weirdness and now you're ready to show everyone in FC what they have been doing wrong forever! All based on your expert knowledge from living here all of half of a year and getting chummy with Harold Bost who is disgraced, yet you weren't around for any of that.

The way the kooks have come out of the woodwork to be the most vocal opponents of WFB leads me to believe it's really going to happen and even maybe that it should. Dennis Chase, the ginga/pips1414 person, Steve Brown, DBarlow, Bost, SPLOSTPOLL freak......I may have to re-consider my opposition to WFB at this point.

Courthouserules
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Barlow

Vengeance is mine sayeth the WBP hater's club!

I have no idea what the EBP is! Never heard it described! I don't even know what phase 3 of the WBP is! Why is one better than the other? Who owns the land on the EBP?

How can you be sure that a certain Bank will get rich off the WBP?
Why do you think Commissioners care much if they get defeated from these jobs? They are a pain! Do they pay well?

I suppose it is a pride thing---I am a Commissioner! I can't imagine they hope to make a bunch of money off it.

"Can't we all just get along?" signed: guy LA police beat up

pips1414
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A Special "Thank You" To The Naysayers (they know who they are)

Well said, Mr. Barlow. This is what needs to appear on the front page of all the local newspapers. But don't let my caption fool you. We owe thanks to those who repeatedly take issue with good public causes, yet fail to provide data to prove them wrong. Were it not for them, comments would be fewer and far between, and our letters would stay in the "top ten" for nearly as long.

Dissent also helps us to be given the opportunity to address public concerns, frivolous as some of them may be. The truth is, the founding fathers of the 2003 SPLOST never intended for the West Bypass to surpass the East Bypass as a priority project. They never realized that submitting future transportation projects to the will of the commissioners would result in such greed by future commissioners.

I'll have to give the naysayers credit, though, for correctly labeling us as standing in the way of progress. Sometimes, progress can go in the wrong direction. Most folks in Fayette County prefer it the way it is to becoming more like the surrounding counties. If that is progress, let's stand pat.

Salvo10
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On A Parallel Course

You've articulated so well what we at the WFB Coalition have been repeating for 18 months. They don't get it. We're winning every issue we strategically take on. SPLOST: election;public awareness blasting in paper etc. Our next step is a public hearing regarding the permits and we will prevail there too.I will later post where to write the Army Corps of engineers or look for pips who's posted it many times.
I had published suspicion of Jack Smith's motive to use"Executive Order" to acquire land, and drive to push on was in order to help his bank as board member before he moves on to another when it eventually fails. I lost the gumption and pulled it. That's the third time I've done that then shortly later some else came along, said it and it turned out to be true. I have to stop doing that.
Your history is very informative and not a lying spin the Horgan and Carol Chandler put out a while back claiming the WFB has been the same for 20 years.http://www.thecitizen.com/articles/07-07-2010/political-letters-didn%E2%80%99t-make-it-print-edition
Thumbs up for mentioning the possible connection with Smith and bank.