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Fayette Visioning supporters talk funding, goals

The Fayette Visioning Initiative is well underway, with a steering committee of 40 and a recently completed public survey with more than 1,450 people providing input on Fayette County’s needs for the future. So who is funding the initiative and exactly what kind of influence does the steering committee hold as the visioning process continues to unfold?

Fayette County Chamber of Commerce President Virginia Gibbs was asked about the initiative’s income and expenses: Where do the funds come from and who is giving money for the effort?

Though all Fayette Visioning Initiative meetings are open to the public and the organization is not currently a nonprofit that status could change, said Gibbs.

“We talked about having it be a 501(c)(3) now or in the implementation phase,” Gibbs said Monday, explaining that the first of three parts of the process has just ended and the third, the implementation phase, is expected to begin this summer. “For now, the chamber has a specific income and expense line item.”

Left, Virginia Gibbs, Fayette Chamber CEO. File photo.

Gibbs supplied both income and expenses showing that, through Jan. 31, the initiative had received $75,500 with paid expenses of $47,472.

In terms of income, the initiative received $51,000 from Coweta-Fayette EMC, $7,500 from Piedmont Fayette Hospital, $5,000 from Georgia Power, $5,000 from Fellowship of Love Church, $5,000 from Kaiser Permanente, $1,000 from Mark Gray State Farm Insurance and $1,000 from Tyrone resident Pota Coston. All the business contributors conduct business in Fayette County, Gibbs added.

Expenses include $45,000 to Market Street Services, Inc. for consulting services, $1,033.93 for two community meetings at Dolce Atlanta Peachtree, $417.50 for printing and copies, $228.88 for consultant mileage and reimbursable expenses, $130 for a polling subscription, $75.73 for lunches at two meetings, $50.97 for name tags, cards and supplies for meetings and $34.99 for website domain and email registration for

Visioning initiative co-chair Bob Ross was asked Monday if the steering committee holds any influence over the outcome of the process.

“There has been a very deliberate effort by the steering committee and Market Street not to try to solve the issue before the public defines what the issues are. The [10] focus groups were a big part of that,” Ross said, explaining that members of the focus groups, averaging approximately 15 members per group, provided input on “what’s on people’s minds and where they think we are.”

The steering committee includes 40 Fayette residents representing large employers, small business, the faith-based community, social service nonprofits and local governments and elected officials. The committee includes chamber members, those not affiliated with the chamber and those, such as Ross, who were opposed to chamber positions on issues such as the endorsement of the one percent regional sales tax for transportation.

Asked if the steering committee has already decided what it thinks Fayette County needs or if the committee began the initiative with preconceived notions on what that group would like to see unfold, Ross in speaking for himself said, “I wanted to see a vibrant community. If that’s preconceived, then so be it. I wanted outstanding schools, jobs for youngsters and the existing population, a community that takes care of its own and good public safety. If that’s preconceived, then I’m guilty as charged. The steering committee has been very deliberate about not getting the cart before the horse.”

There are some who have asked if the Fayette vision will unfold by residents being told what to believe or what to do.

“The steering committee of 40 people is not being directed by an individual or any group to do anything,” Ross said, noting that what will result from the visioning process is dependent upon the citizens who make up the Fayette County community. “The whole thing is dependent on the community realizing the validity of the vision and supporting it. It’s a voluntary effort. (The steering committee) has no authority to impose the vision on anyone. Having a great vision is dependent on having input from the 1,500 people who responded to the survey.”

A portion of the recent visioning survey reported the position, held by some, that younger people did not live in Fayette due to the cost of housing.

At right, Trey Ragsdale, co-chair of the Fayette Visioning Initiative. File photo.

“Some people jumped to the conclusion that meant (the idea would be to have) cheaper housing or not having to ‘earn your way’ into Fayette County. The steering committee hasn’t discussed these things,” said Ross. “No matter what way we go the vision will have to address the disparity in housing. But this group of citizens has no authority to impose a vision once developed. It has to be a vision the community buys into. If the community does not buy in to the vision, it will not occur.”

For more information on the Fayette Visioning Initiative, to see the names of steering committee members and to view the results of the community survey visit



that Coweta Fayette EMC has handed over? PTC manager told the city council that it is $60,000 when asked at the Dec. 19th council meeting.

EMC's VP of finance is saying they provided $25,000. from 2013 budget line-item funding and $25,000. from 2013 economic development projects for Fayette County. Grand total of $50,000. Virginia Gibbs says above it is $51,000.

Bob Ross, at the same Dec. PTC council meeting told council that Kaiser Permanente contributed $10,000., yet Virginia Gibbs above is saying they contributed $5,000.

Bob Ross also told council that other businesses and organizations had provided in-kind expenses (shouldn't that be donations?) for meetings that were held, as well as refreshments. Above, Virginia Gibbs says $1033.93 was spent at the Dolce for 2 community meetings. Was that a donation by the Dolce or a paid expense to the Dolce?

EMC is donating quite a bit of its customers money, but they made a bundle supplying power to the studios and will reap great profits once they are up and running. Kaiser has how many facilities down this way, 2? I doubt PFH is happy about them being invited to the table. (As a side note, I think EMC performed great this week)

I'm still baffled by the co-chair and how he was brought into the picture. Being a former White House party planner, I am sure he knows people, but getting someone from the states development office involved and on our side would have also been a huge success.

Bob states that the vision people have no authority to implement their vision without community support. They invited the general public for a meeting in early March for input. I'd like to see an agenda and not some type of open house like commission used for stormwater. If the county commission is present at this meeting, I'd like to know if they are working on the comprehensive plan or if they plan to rubber stamp this vision as the county vision, because I doubt the people working hard in the vision group are doing this without the understanding that their work will be utilized.

SPQR's picture

The EMC doesn't have customers it has members, and if they polled their members I doubt they would get much support for throwing said members cash at these guys. Frankly I'm a little surprised they have that kind of latitude. Keep in mind that character running Cobb EMC funneling cash out for his side business. I guess if you don't have any oversight......

We are members, when they want us to feel like equals. I usually confer with my wife on large purchases. EMC has way too much latitude with our money. I bet some would rather they reinvest in more underground power after some lost power due to the less expensive above ground installation. I don't know if they employ the same tactics as Cobb, but I wouldn't put it past anyone who is working under the same set of rules.

There is too much ambiguity and secrecy with this vision group to give them that much money.

I think the Vision / Planning is a good thing. However, the way it was put together, makes it look less than honest.

I won't say more at this time.

SPQR's picture

Pardon my soapbox. The EMC has a mission and purpose. To provide electricity at the most reasonable cost possible. The managers are not corporate moguls they are trustees. They have a FIDUCIARY OBLIGATION to the owners/members. Available capital is not or should not be a slush fund for any purpose other than the EMC's primary and sole mission of providing electrical power at the lowest price possible.

Hopefully those that had prolonged outages agree. $50k for a vision is still a lot of money.

SPQR's picture

read this piece from WSB and then wonder what's going on with OUR EMC.

Hi Bob

First let me say I do beleive that you have no personal agenda. I have seen your work over time and appreciate it. Equally I am glad we are discussing the involvement of the Chamber of Commerece. They are a vital part of our community and the suggestuions they were not involved were troubling.

But, I would like to hear more about your steering committee. How were they recruited or selected? I know from my past ESPOST work, we came together after a BOE presentation and every memeber was involved in our excellent Fayette County Public Schools. We all had a certain point of view we were coming from. I suspect the steering committee came from a similar experience.

I am glad to see that we have our two state Representatives State Senator and our US Representative on your committee. But it is very odd that not one of our county leaders are on your committee. Some of them seem to be on every regional committee but none on the visioning? Seems odd. Whay are they not on this visioning committee if they represent the citizens of Fayette County?

I ask these questions because of what we saw last year from the school redistricting committee where the group came together without much planning. After a while there were proposals to move lines "back they way they used to be" even though moving those lines would cause more not less impact, or better wanting to put a PTC elementary school on the closure list "so PTC has skin in the game". That school is full by the way. My point is to ask how are agendas being screened or diluted?

I appreciate what you and your group are doing.

Take Care,



I had long lunch Sunday with a member of the Vision committee. Very interesting conversation. My intuition was not far off and I believe you see it too. This committee didn't just come together by happenstance and not having any county commissioners isn't happenstance either. The county administrator (as he should be) is in the group. Cross reference all 5 commissioners and you have one of the co-chairs. There is definitely a reason for this.

I'm still not sure what the second co-chair brings to the table, and didn't have time on Sunday to inquire.

Glad they are finally opening the meetings to the public on 3/5. I plan to be there to listen intently.

mudcat's picture

Why does this group even exist? And what are they trying to accomplish? How come everything is so vague? What do we need to know? Too much money donated from some big players. Mostly development based companies. There must be an agenda - what is it?
Can someone be clear and honest? Please?

Popping up so soon after Pinewood with some of those movers so involved makes me think affordable housing and public transit are the drivers. If so, no thanks. If not, please tell us.

Went to the meeting tonight. Not impressed when they chose to stop the questioning after some arbitrary time. There were still hands in the air. Don't advertise that we can ask questions if your not going to let everyone be heard. (Except the clown who didn't ask a question, but told everyone he moved here for the schools, then dissed them). They spent way too much time rehashing the data and what has already been reported. This ain't the army.

Politicos there to pat each other on the back. Not a single elected introduced themselves to me or my friend. Though the people manning the stations were nice, took the time to introduce themselves, and offer discussions.

Neil, when you come in late, you know you have to sit in front. No more hiding in the rear, lol.

Who was that female with Logsdon? And why was he wearing a name badge? Seems he forgot to applaud for all the elected in the crowd. Poor sport.

What was that stat? Over 3 thousand moved from Clayton to Fayette during 2005-2010 and yet Fayetteville's crime stats went down during that time. Huh?

I look forward to an editorial extraordinaire from our big kahuna, Mr. Cal (and Mrs. Joyce) Beverly. Their thoughts on what they heard should be enlightening, since it seems none of this other vision stuff is so far.

I didn't pay much attention to the lady. Noticed the other former PTC mayor, but didn't see commission chair.

Personally, I don't see crime as a problem. I think the police chiefs and sheriff are doing a fine job. But, I don't shop at the Fayette Pavillion.

I should have listened to my wife and picked up a coffee before I went in. The verbal report went too long especially when most people there have kept up with the reporting.

The brownie I had on the way out was good, but what was up with the sandwiches?
Most of those in attendance were committee members, county staff, and politicos. I just wished they allotted the time for those who wanted to ask questions. It was rude to cut them off after telling us they wanted to hear what we have to say.

Yep got there late. Fortunately I took your lead and had met with a few steering people before time so I had been over that presentation enough.

Got sucked into this SB 167 Anti Common Core thing that got dropped at the last second. Spent a good chunk on that yesterday, getting some facts out an obligatory E-mail blast. I don't know enough to know if Common Core is good or bad, but I know enough to not support anything without seeing the plan to replace it. Gov Deal's people are calling it a work in progress just like Pelosi called Obamacare. No Thanks.

I agree I was disappointed in the lack of questions from the floor. especially when most of them were thoughtful. The man up front (another reason not to sit there) was out of line but he raised anm interesting point. If we stipulate to his numbers, 2000 in private and 2000 home schooled ( BOE said this was high ) that would indicate a 16-17% alternate school population (20+2+2) = 24 4/24 = 16.7%. I wonder what the benchmark cities are? This would be interesting to know. How do they ( and they should to be clear ) fit into the vision? I did drop that note in the education bucket. The only good point about the short answer period I was fixing to answer the man in front and had to keep sitting on my hand.

The stations were good and the people nice, for those who were not there each station had a question they asked you to answer. I did not answer many of them becasue I thought they were presuming agreement with other premise points that were not articulated. For example, the Affordable Housing table asked what amendities did we think would attract young families or something like that. I think there are larger questions on that front than amenities. and given open ended questions concerns me becasue the "results" can be shaped to fit a strawman solution.

On the affluent and educated front, the question was how can we support the not for profits in Fayette. Honestly was shocked there as I did not connect those dots. I shared with a very nice steering lady ( from a NPO) that if I were to answer it I would address it more from how do we position our faith community as the front line of service so again, you had to agree with a premise that I did not. But blood sugar was low so I might have been cranky.

Over all it was nice but Dr. Evans and SCHS did an excellent job hosting the event and I was very impressed with the students involved especially the AF ROTC.

You should have snagged a sandwich or brownie before you came in. You would have been in a better mood, lol.

Sitting in the back doesn't get you to heaven as fast either. The fun is up front, so you can be seen.

The common core debate yesterday was a joke. Gov. Deal knows better. Without an alternate (good) plan, who is going to follow him nilly willy? I don't like common core because I think we can do better, but I realize we need the federal funding since we aren't prepared to take on the costs as a state.

The ROTC kids were great. Felt like royalty when they opened doors and ushered everyone in. Good job from all SCHS.

They should have kept the floor open for questions until exhausted. I, along with others wanted to hear what people had to say. Closing it that quick was cowardly after advertising they wanted to hear the unwashed. We can all take surveys on line at any time.

I agree we need more younger families, but certainly don't think lowering our standards is the way to go.

Too much time is being wasted on the arts . It's nice to have, but I really doubt it's sustainable with much better places an hour away in ATL.

Hope the rest of your day goes well.

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