Nobody Cares (Part 1 of 6)

Nobody Cares (Part 1 of 6)

Eric Imker is a retired Air Force officer (1994) and former Peachtree City Council Member (2009-2015) who has advance degrees in Program Management and Computer Systems with professional expertise in Systems Engineering, Government and Business Contracting, and Budgeting and Personnel Management.

This is the first in a series of articles about decisions being made on behalf of the citizens of Peachtree City. Most are financial in nature. I hope your awareness level will be raised when you learn about costs associated with various projects.

The bottom line theme is, “Nobody cares.” When was the last time you questioned the cost of one of the city projects? Most likely, never. If you did, you would be aware of what your tax dollars are being spent on. You would start having your own questions about decisions being made on your behalf.

At the end of each one of the topics, I could write, “Nobody cares” but that would get tedious. Just assume those two words are there.

Apparently, Peachtree City is now overflowing with tax dollars. There simply doesn’t seem to be any semblance of cost mindedness. So what if a project costs a quarter million dollars when it should only cost $50,000? We have the cash so let’s pay the quarter million. This seems to be the underlying theme nowadays.

This series of articles will talk about costs and background of the:
Part 1
Lake Peachtree replacement spillway project;
County negotiations for future Lake Peachtree dredging;

Part 2
Open air pavilion at Drake Field;
Splash pad at Glenlock Park;
Blackmail payout carefully buried as a recent consent agenda item;

Part 3
Replacing the cart path bridge at GA54 over Lake Peachtree;
“Design” for a bridge/tunnel at Crosstown Road to get over/under GA74;
TDK extension to Coweta County;
City council taking over our sewer bills;
Huddleston Road commercial area still on septic;

Part 4
Wildly successful 1 cent SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax);
Property tax rate for FY2019;
Taxes and their impact on businesses considering coming to Peachtree City;
Storm water billing;

Part 5
Redesigning the intersection of 54/74;
Bridge connection to Spyglass Island in Lake Peachtree;
Commitment of $2.5M for an Arts Center;

Part 6
Cost of a single question on the city ballot this last election;
Voting for council members on odd number years;
Bedroom community vision nearing completion;

This is a good start of a list. Let’s talk about only the first two now. The rest will be discussed in future articles.

Last year city council agreed to spend about $5,200,000 on the Lake Peachtree spillway project when it was supposed to cost only about $4,000,000. This is a huge overrun. Nobody seems to remember the history of how this overrun came about.

Once the decision was made to replace the spillway, the city had to decide if it should be a Category rated 1 (most robust) or Category 2 (less robust but cheaper by about half). We finally got a letter from the state of Georgia’s “Safe Dams” office saying we could go with the Cat 2. Included in the letter was a disclaimer that they could force us to go Cat 1 in the future. We realized that actually meant we better go Cat 1 now and be done with it.

Peachtree City had engineering plans drawn up that included $3,000,000 for the new Cat 1 spillway, $500,000 for an upgrade to the dam itself (why leave it at Cat 2 when we knew it could be required to be Cat 1 in the future), and finally $500,000 for a new cart path system over the spillway to replace the outdated one-way awkward system on Kelly Drive. Total, $4,000,000.

We negotiated (never completed – see following issue below) with the county to trade future maintenance and dredging costs for help in paying for the new spillway. The county would chip in $2,000,000 of the $4,000,000 needed. We planned on using $1,000,000 from SPLOST money and the final $1,000,000 would come from the city budget. Voila, the entire project would be all paid for.

It was a great plan up until the point where we wind up spending $5,200,000. Why? Because we were misled when told we needed a special one-of-a-kind in the entire country spillway. Balderdash. We had a spillway design in place for 40-plus years doing just fine. Apparently a neat looking finger-type spillway would be very eye catching, and heck, it’s only an extra $1,200,000.

Let us get back to the dredging (mentioned above). The dredging issue addresses the millions (!) of dollars left on the table that will be seized by the county as a result of poor negotiations for future Lake Peachtree maintenance.

The county agreed to pay $2,000,000 for our new spillway and $1,000,000 for a one-time future dredging event (likely in about 10 years). We never even attempted to find a long-term solution so that far future dredging and lake maintenance would always be paid for.

We should have asked the county to set aside about 5 cents per 1,000 gallons used on our water bills for future maintenance payments. Heck, that’s what the county was doing. The county is continuing to set aside that money but it will no longer be used for Lake Peachtree. The money will be used for other water projects outside of Peachtree City.

A part of Peachtree City residents’ water bills was always intended for Lake Peachtree “maintenance”, which included not only dredging but keeping the shore line clean and clear and keeping the spillway and dam “up to specs.” Only the dredging was done regularly. The spillway failed under county supervision. The dam had trees growing on the back, which would have eventually caused a failure.

It was clear the county never “maintained” the lake properly, yet we sold out to the county for a short-term couple million bucks and let them off the hook for future maintenance.

All we had to do is negotiate that nickel per thousand gallons to go into some kind of escrow or “Enterprise” account for Peachtree City and every 10 years we’d have that million dollars for dredging and other maintenance. The county essentially got future millions for a relatively small one-time payment up front.

Even now we should go back to the county and request this money (our money) be set aside for us. Failing that, we should still ask the county to add that nickel per thousand gallons so that we might have future funds for maintenance of our lake. All we’ve accomplished right now is to saddle our children with future periodic million dollar bills.

Future articles will discuss several more of the listed issues.