Brown: Answers to Lentz’s questions

Mr. Paul Lentz has written a series of letters to the editor related to the Core Infrastructure SPLOST, slated for the November ballot.

Many have had a difficult time following Mr. Lentz’s urgings, and the issues enumerated within those communications are scarce. Hence, to avoid any uncertainty, let’s spell out some concerns, permitting the voters to decide on their own.

Allow me to say first that Mr. Lentz (who has dubbed himself as the “curmudgeon”) is a very nice guy and I appreciate his interest in local government at a time when many know little about what really takes place. Mr. Lentz volunteers with the Friends of the Peachtree City Library non-profit which assists and encourages the library staff.

On the subject of the stormwater projects, 181 total projects in the unincorporated county, please know that almost every project is a replacement or a repair for an existing piece of infrastructure in the ground today. Some readers have misconstrued particular comments made in the past, thinking there are a lot of “new” projects on the list.

Take for instance the dams on the Core Infrastructure list. Those dams already exist. The state regulators are not asking us if we want to restore the structural integrity or breach the dams. They are ordering us to either repair or breach each of them.

It takes a significant amount of funding, in the millions, to either repair or breach the dams. For the record, the county government does not have the funding to do either one. Again, we have been ordered to act and we will have to pull the funding from other line items somewhere else in our lean budget. In the process of our balancing the budget, we did not leave a lot of wiggle room.

It is absolutely true that the county government should have set aside funding over time to pay for stormwater infrastructure repair and replacement. Unfortunately, that was not done, and there is absolutely nothing our board can do about the past.

If the Core Infrastructure SPLOST passes, all of the county’s funding will go into an “enterprise” fund that, by state law, can only be used for the programmed repairs.

Your current Board of Commissioners has vowed to make things right and take care of problems.

This past Thursday, your current Board of Commissioners hired a new firm for engineering in our Fayette County Water System. The old firm had been in place and the professional services had not been bid out for over 30 years!

We brought in the most recognized water specialist in the United States, winning international awards for water treatment services and engineering as well as receiving numerous awards for business ethics. We are also looking for a top-notch director for the water system.

In the first six months, your current Board of Commissioners put an end to the consistent deficit spending of the past. In addition, openness, transparency and constituent communication have improved exponentially.

Just like the way we are trying to address the past inattention of funding the repair and replacement of our aging stormwater infrastructure currently in the ground, we made the problems known and then began to turn things around.

We have certainly had aging stormwater culverts fail recently and we have had to scrape the funds together for the replacements. Obviously, this is not a professional way to do business.

So what will happen if the two-year Core Infrastructure SPLOST gets voted down? We will do our best to keep things patched together.

Our local cities, after bearing the brunt of the recession, are not only strapped for funds, but they also have certain existing infrastructure maintenance requirements that are almost non-funded.

The decision on whether we tax ourselves one cent for two years to catch up on repairs and maintenance is entirely up to you. Nevertheless, I remind you that being competitive on attracting jobs and high quality citizens depends upon keeping our existing systems from failing.

Keep in mind that funding pulled from other essential line items to make core infrastructure repairs will further weaken our financial position and make us less competitive than other counties.

If you opt not to pass the measure, we will do our utmost to keep things going and we will keep fighting the good fight. Personally, I love my home folks and you can count on us to continue to eliminate the good old boy system and to try to keep the train on the tracks.

If you have any questions or concerns related to the Core Infrastructure SPLOST, you can use the special email address, stormwaterinput@fayettecountyga.gov, and we will get you a prompt reply.

Steve Brown, chairman
Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Fayetteville, Ga.

Steve Brown
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Husband and Father

Are there any technical problems that you might have related to the project list with the Core Infrastructure SPLOST? This is the same question I posed to Mr. Lentz.

You are correct that our current board could not stop the forward progress of the West Fayetteville Bypass, but that was certainly not our fault as the contracts had been rushed through the prior year.

The stormwater fee was approved the year before also, you are correct. Our board has publicly stated we will not issue the stormwater fee for the next four consecutive years if the Core Infrastructure SPLOST passes.

The Core Infrastructure SPLOST deals strictly with the repair and replacement of "existing" infrastructure - meaning - it has to be performed. We are simply allowing an alternative where shoppers from out of county can participate in the payment of those infrastructure costs.

Previous SPLOST attempts had lots of fluff, including new (not necessary structures).

If you want to question any of the projects on the list, please do.

Husband and Fat...
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Mr. Brown - Here is a simple reason to say no

I certainly understand the remedial items listed on the splost are a direct result previous commissions failures to maintain a line item budget for infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

Perhaps I wasn't clear in my earlier post, but I think advisors to commission inadvertenly sabotaged the county by allowing commission to rescind the previously approved stormwater fee BEFORE having a new plan in place. Commission could have easily stated that they could not or would not rescind the current stormwater fee until the splost passed or a different fee structure was developed. The county now lost one year of fees and commission lost the their leverage for gaining splost approval.

Now, lets look at one simple project that proves there is fluff and inappropriate projects on the lists.

Merrydale Drive Project (Page 31, of Category 1)

The county notes state that the developer filled in the flood plain and now the area needs mitigation at a cost of $125K.

The county is asking citizens to pay for the restoration of 500 lf of stream which includes re-grading the stream profile with elevation controls, creating floodplain to reconnect overbank flow.

1. Why should county residents be on the hook for these costs resulting from developer / inspection errors and homeowners building their private fences within the buffer?

2. Where was the county when they approved the plans or approved occupants to move into homes where they modified the flood plain?

3. Photos indicate to me that property owners are probably dumping their lawn and tree trimmings into the stream causing the flooding.

I can't see how commission can ask me to pay for the remediation that will only benefit homeowners who caused this problem in the first place.

Husband and Fat...
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Splost - Set up to fail

Mr. Brown:

With all due respect, you nor your fellow commissioners have had any experience promoting a splost. If memory serves me correctly, you referred to splosts as a politicians cocaine.

In my humble opinion, the splost will fail because commission relinguished their leverage following the town hall meetings when commission resinded the previously approved stormwater fee.

When commission took a deep breath and publicly recognized that they could not stop the forward progress of the WFB, commission could have also taken the stance that the stormwater fee has already been approved, but if the people want to void this fee in the near future, we can offer up the splost.

But early on, commission just wanted to differentiate themselves from their arch nemesis (past commissions) and be liked.

Leverage, my friend, and a better presentation of the issues would have made this splost pass with ease.

Since commission gave away this leverage, they left it up to county staff to pull together a package detailing the problems without first reviewing themselves and then utilizing the services of a marketing professional to present correctly.

Commission could have scored points had they played the game and publicly questioned any of the items themselves, like you all used to do when you were running for office.

Then you ridicule, talk down to, and brush off anyone who questioned the report. Mr. Barlow started his campaign when past commission ignored a concerned constituent, but he stood idly by without saying a word when Mr. Chase questioned his approved splost. Why is that?

We know commission will dust themselves off from this defeat and go back to the drawing board, and yes, this will probably involve a fee that was approved years ago.

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