Fayette Chamber surveys support for regional sales tax vote

The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce is surveying its membership this week in an effort

to find out what the business community thinks about the county’s transportation needs “if there are any,” according to Chamber President and CEO Virginia Gibbs.

“We feel this is an important step in trying to get to what people’s issues and concerns are, or if there aren’t any concerns,” Gibbs explained.

The survey notes that if a regional transportation sales tax is approved next year, Fayette County is due to see $186 million in projects here. Although Fayette voters will get a chance to vote on the sales tax next July, it will be enacted here if it is approved by the all voters among the 10-county metro Atlanta region, regardless of whether Fayette County individually approves the measure or not.

The Chamber’s online survey asks several detailed questions about the user’s weekday and weekend trips, and it also asks about which type of transportation issues adversely affect them or their business.

In addition to the multiple choice format, the survey also allows the user to check a box for “other” and type in a detailed response.

The survey will end Friday, Gibbs added.

The Chamber is planning a separate similar survey for the general public that will be posted on its website next week, Gibbs said. The Chamber’s website is www.fayettechamber.org.

Gibbs said the Chamber got a great first-day response from the survey of local businesses, getting 10 percent of users to respond right away.

“Clearly, people are interested in the issue,” Gibbs said, noting that survey participants have provided “very thoughtful comments.”

Among the various transportation issues in the metro Atlanta area, Gibbs said that one recurring issue on the survey’s preliminary results is that the interchange of Ga. Highway 74 and Interstate 85 “is a real concern and a growing concern.”

All of the transportation sales tax projects proposed for Fayette County are for roads and cart paths, as there are no rail, bus or transit proposals here.

In a letter to the editor published in today’s paper, Gibbs notes that 73 percent of the workforce living in Fayette County commutes elsewhere. Likewise, some 67 percent of the employees at local businesses come from other counties, she added.

“One thing we know ... now more than ever, it is mission critical that we continue to have access to high-paying jobs across our region and to the many service providers and amenities that brought us to live and work in this area,” Gibbs wrote.

Although in her letter Gibbs noted that many people are dealing with financial pressures now, “what are the implications for the health of our community if we do nothing to address our transportation issues?”

Critics of the sales tax complain that it will be used to expand transit elsewhere in metro Atlanta at significant cost to the taxpayers. In the meantime, there is a move afoot at the state level to rethink how transit issues are handled and funded in metro Atlanta, as Gov. Nathan Deal recently created a “transit governance task force” to develop legislation for the General Assembly to consider next year which may result in the creation of a regional transit system.

Deal named state House Majority Caucus Chairwoman Donna Sheldon (R-Dacula) and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) as co-chairs. Other members of the task force will be: Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Decatur), Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta), Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain), Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb), who chairs the MARTA Oversight Board, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker, Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash, Douglas County Chairman Tom Worthan and Rockdale County Chairman Richard Oden.

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