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PTC sacks development authority

The Development Authority of Peachtree City is no more, as a 3-2 vote of the city council determined that a full-time — but vacant — economic development coordinator on city staff, along with the county’s development authority, will be ideal to recruit new business for the city.

DAPC, a seven-member volunteer board appointed by council, has been a political hot potato for more than a year now.

DAPC Chairman Todd Strickland, who has been diplomatic up to this point, could no longer bite his tongue when addressing council Thursday night prior to its final decision.

“What we really need to have happen is for the city council to just get along,” Strickland said. “Say, ‘Hey guys, let’s take the high road when we disagree on something. Let’s figure out how to work together.’”

Strickland urged council to develop a comprehensive economic development plan that features “everybody working together.”

The former developer of the city, Pathway Communities, is no longer involved in economic development and the city must step into that role, Strickland said.

“It is incumbent upon you guys to figure it out and put aside this pettiness,” Strickland said. “And it’s not the problem of the development authority: that’s the symptom. The problem is we can’t get along. And someone needs to step up and say, ‘I’m going to take the high road. I’m not going to necessarily let this small thing over whether or not the economic development coordinator reports to the development authority or to the city manager be this end-all, be-all. ... You guys have got to get it done. This is our city that we all care about.”

The crowd then erupted into spontaneous applause.

Strickland said DAPC has always desired “to take our marching orders from the city council” and the authority has been an asset available to the city.

Furthermore, such authorities are employed by Fayetteville, Newnan and other nearby cities.

For example, Strickland argued that the DAPC has been able to meet with a number of existing businesses that the county development authority has not been able to over the past several years.

But Strickland’s words were not enough to convince a majority of council, as the split 3-2 vote had councilmembers Kim Learnard, Eric Imker and Vanessa Fleisch in favor, and Mayor Don Haddix joining Councilman Doug Sturbaum in dissent.

Learnard chided Haddix for continuing to be vocal about steering a new economic development coordinator to work as the staffer for the development authority instead of the city.

“It is my belief that we have a problem and we cannot continue with the same conditions that resulted in failure the last time around,” Learnard said, referring to the controversy that led to the resignation of economic development coordinator Joey Grisham. “What makes me sad is I love these people, I really do. Every one of them, dedicated ... and positive people with energy.”

Learnard said she thinks the city will succeed in economic development being led “by the city” in the form of a city staffer reporting directly to the city manager.

“This is a new beginning, and I think we will bring in the right staff, equip them with all the resources that they need, and remove the distractions and the conflicts that have been facing us for a long, long time,” Learnard said.

Learnard pointed to a recent blog authored by Haddix that urged having the coodinator report to DAPC instead, some year after council took its vote on hiring the coordinator as a city staffer reporting to the director of the planning department.

Learnard said the new staffer could ultimately decide the city needs “an advisory panel of some kind” and she hoped some of the DAPC members would serve in that capacity.

Haddix contended that the city could continue to keep the development authority around for $7,500 a year to keep it in existence in case it is ever needed to issue bonds.

But it is precisely that potential for fiscal issues that played a part in killing DAPC, even though existing authority members said they would never encumber the city in such a manner without council’s blessing.

Councilman Eric Imker had previously said he was concerned about the possibility of another tennis center debacle.

Imker was referring to a lawsuit that resulted after the city decided to stop using hotel motel tax money to pay loans incurred years ago by DAPC to operate and maintain the tennis center and amphitheater.

The city ultimately settled the lawsuit, and bonds were issued to pay the settlement.

Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said she felt in large part that the DAPC’s role was redundant compared to that of the Fayette County Development Authority, which the city also plays a part in.

“I have decided this is not the way to go, because we have the potential to create a behemoth competing agency with FCDA,” Fleisch said, adding that she felt such redundancy was unnecessary in tough economic times.

Outgoing FCDA President and CEO Brandt Herndon said the authority would issue bonds for any economic development project the city wishes to pursue.

But the redundancy contention was challenged by DAPC member Mike Murtaugh, who contended that his position led to three different major contacts for the county development authority: one for a new company and two for companies that are looking to expand, perhaps at their Peachtree City location.

The out-of-town company was courted by a special meeting orchestrated by Murtaugh to show what it’s like to do business in Peachtree City, he said, before asking councilman Imker to “give his attention for a moment.”

The meeting focused on the city’s village concept and the company being recruited remarked that it sounded “like paradise.”

Murtaugh, who has served leadership roles in corporate marketing, now owns the TCBY at the Braelinn Village shopping center. He said council needs to work as part of the economic development team.

Murtaugh added that DAPC has worked well with Herndon and FCDA.

Council also had some discussion about a proposal last year from Sturbaum that would have dedicated a portion of the millage rate to the authority’s annual budget.

Sturbaum contended that his numbers were “a starting point” for negotiations instead of a concrete proposal. Sturbaum said he hoped DAPC could be seen as a complimentary service to help out FCDA, but he too supported the hiring of an economic development coordinator.

DAPC in recent years has morphed into an organization that has supported the city’s village retail centers, including assistance in starting merchants’ associations at several.

DAPC also funded a $15,000 study from Georgia Tech which urged several key golf cart path connections would help improve business at the retail centers. That project could have cost more than $100,000 or more, and its recommendations were adopted by the owner of the Peachtree Crossings (Glenloch Village) shopping center.

DAPC member Mark Hollums also recalled the authority working closely with The Shopping Center Group during the massive renovation of the Braelinn Village shopping center, which resulted in the businesses facing significant customer access issues.

Strickland also responded to criticism from resident Randy Boyett that records showed DAPC members buying lunches for each other using city tax dollars. “A lot of those lunches were meeting with business and we were going saying ‘Hey we appreciate you being here,’” Strickland said, also addressing the authority’s purchase of tickets to the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater summer concert series as a way to show appreciation to businesses who remain here.



mudcat's picture

I don't really understand why we are hurting ourselves by dumping one of the most dedicated and articulate volunteers this city has ever had. Todd seems like exactly the person we would want to meet with new businesses coming into the city and here we are disbanding his group and upsetting him at the same time.

I have not heard or read one reasonable explanation of why the city is doing this.

tortugaocho's picture

Take your pick:

- Has been a conduit for local favors including Mayor Lenox's local business

- They can't build a building without a leaky roof

- They can't build a building without using a local builder, owned by a former council member, despite the highest price because they are "the most qualified bidder"

- They forget about the Open Meetings Law and admit it, despite paying a lawyer and having a lawyer on the DAPC (oops, no one cared)

- They let their prize jewel, the world-renowned leaky roof, to be run by a half-assed tennis pro who resigns and escapes to Alabama

- They cause us to spend $50,000 on a Special Counsel report which concludes, yup, yer crooked and that Mayor Lenox changed the terms of a contract AFTER a city vote

WOW, this is too easy....Maybe the best part of this whole thing was Fred Brown's fuzzy defense of the whole outfit. I'm starting to wonder if Kimmie might be all right.



Everything you mentioned is way ancient history. You sir/ mame. llikely have never attended a meeting. Get your head out of your posterior and see what is going on around you. DAPC, since the exodus of Lennox' good old boys, was well above board on ethics, compliance, and fiduciary responsibility. I know because i was there. for four years. So shut your trap.

If you want to do some good, VOTE next time to break up this incestuous Imker, Fleisch, Learned team that stymies everything.

And while we are on the topic... if you want to point a finger at good old boy network politics, peel the lid off the FCDA and see whar crawls out!


mudcat's picture

Understand the history, but Todd Strickland and his group are not now and never were part of the GroupVI, Peachtree National Bank, Doug Warner, Virgil Christian cabal. Using your logic we should disband city council and abolish the office of mayor just because a previous mayor and council acted improperly about the tennis center or buying the sewer system for an inflated price or building a faulty library or some other questionable decision.

I'm talking about this DAPC, this city council and what they have in mind to attract business, if not this DAPC? Sounds like they are looking to Fayette County Development Authority. Seriously doubt they intend to hire a coordinator again.

Todd Strickland is a class act. And all the volunteers "post" the Tennis Center crew.

Go visit Braelinn Village to see what DAPC did. I rest my case.


NUK_1's picture

They would be a nice improvement.

I have mixed feelings on disbanding DAPC and hoping FCDA throws PTC a bone now and then. It's especially more challenging when you have our present Mayor who likes making headlines and attacking those who disagree with his vision to the point that I'm not so sure disbanding DAPC wasn't about rubbing his face in it instead of a policy decision.

One other reason about why DAPC worked well(at times) in the past as far as development goes besides PCDC/Pathways' presence is that for a while Tate Godfrey was on DAPC and also the Board for FCDA at the same time Hmmm.

Mike King's picture

I feel you've hit the nail on the head with your point on disbanding DAPC as a means to rub the mayor's face in it. Plain and simple it was a power play that clearly demonstrated just how tired three members on Council were of the mayor's rants, etc. We now know that the mayor is pretty much a figurehead with little to no say in how Peachtree City is run, and it will remain such until one of the three loses favor with the other two.

The sad part is that I firmly believe the Mayor brought it all down on himself.

yellowjax1212's picture

Hmmm, abolish the city council and the office of mayor...I think you may be on to something.

tortugaocho's picture

Mudcat and Trader--- your support of the old cronies is sickening. There have never been any controls placed on the DAPC. It has been a Teapot Dome Scandal from the beginning and still is. Strickland is a good guy and gets kudos for his unsuccessful efforts. But one good guy does not a reliable Authority make. Yeah, I go to meetings regularly. I see the same good ole boys and Chamber crowd. And, no, I don't support the Gang of 3 on council generally but their instincts must be based on logic or at least the rule of thumb that "Burn me once shame on you; burn me twice shame on me." Besides, we need less government, not more. And TradedOut's warning that FCDA is corrupt, uh, Duh !!! Build more roads guys.

yellowjax1212's picture

I only wish Todd Strickland would have taken the gloves off earlier and called out this childish bunch of do-nothings before now. The result may have been the same for DAPC but the debate it could have sparked before the last election could have made a difference.
The no compromise at any cost approach of Mayor Haddix and Councilman Imker has been like watching two little boys arguing in the sandbox.
There is now way that FCDA will look out for the best interests on PTC like the efforts of people who live in this city and give a great deal of time and effort from their regular jobs (for free) to try and make PTC a more attractive place to locate a business. Sure they may send someone to the industrial area (because it's the only one in the county), but what other incentive is there to send a prospective business to PTC instead of Fayetteville, Tyrone, Brooks or better yet into unincorporated Fayette (perhaps along a newly built roadway???).
PTC has never been an inexpensive place to do business and without their hands on approach (especially with small businesses) I feel that more opportunities will go outside the city limits.
We all need to thank Todd Strickland, Mark Hollums, Mike Murtaugh and the others that worked very hard only to let council bickering disband this dedicated group.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Todd identified the problem, but he didn't quantify it. I'll help. Todd mentioned PCDC/Pathways was no longer actively marketing industrial land or office space in PTC. True enough, but someone making decisions about taking their place (as council is currently doing, I hope) should have some curiosity about what PCDC did, how much they had budgeted for marketing and staff, shouldn't they?

Well here it is - approximately. At their peak in the 80's and 90's, PCDC had each and every year:
1. 2 full-time brokers and an admin person
2. $150,000 advertising budget and an advertising agency with an assigned account executive
3. $30-40,000 available for consulting fees to Lesser and Co. and other consultants such as Smart Numbers and Data Book.
4. Liberal expense accounts for travel and entertainment. Trips to Europe and Japan were frequent. Trips to trade shows to get in front of site selectors 2 or 3 times a year.
5. And something that was priceless, a good working relationship with state government, including and especially the Governor and his Department of Industry and Trade.

Obviously DAPC and $7500 was not an adequate replacement for all of the above. Not sure Mr. "retail genius" Grisham was the answer either, But the question remains - what does the city have in mind to replace the PCDC dollars and staff? Anybody got an answer?

BTW, thanks to a knowledgable non-blogger on my street for the inside info from PCDC.

And yes indeed Todd Strickland is a class act.

Live free or die!

It amazes me how there continues to be arguments made in support of the DAPC absence any mention that the organization cost the taxpayers nearly a million dollars due to its complete and irresponsible mismanagement of funds. What part of that don't you folks get? It is like having a debate about the virtues of the Titanic without admitting that it sank.
Council should have dis-banned, de-funded, and dissolved DAPC the same day they cut the check necessary to cover the incompetency of the group, and soon after run the sitting members out of town on a horse with a hot poker in his rear.
The issue here is not whether Todd Strickland is a nice guy, or if in some town, in some state, a development authority proved its worth. We were burned big time before and we can't risk getting burned again. It has been proven that the DAPC, as formed, can act unilaterally without city approval and leave the city holding the liability bag. Let's try something different that doesn't risk putting the private parts of the Peachtree City Taxpayer in a painful sling.

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