Candidates share views at Rotary forum

Thu, 10/11/2007 - 1:42pm
By: John Thompson


Audience members at Tuesday night’s candidate forum sponsored by the Peachtree City Rotary Club heard many similar answers by candidates on a variety of hot-button issues facing the city.
But some candidates for the two upcoming seats in the City Council elections stood out for their varying viewpoints.
One candidate for the Post 1 seat, Tom O’Toole, wants the city to move to zero-based budgeting in a bid to reduce the tax burden on citizens; he also thinks City Council meetings should be televised.
Still two other council candidates — Mark Hollums and Mike King in the Post 2 race — argued that there are too many police officers on staff now judging by the amount of traffic fines the city collects annually.
As for the possibility of the city selling two roads to developer Doug McMurrain to allow creation of a Kohl’s off Ga. Highway 54 West between Planterra Way and Line Creek Drive, the candidates had a variety of answers.
Post 2 candidate Mike King said the Kohl’s plan is “wrong” because the city doesn’t need more regional traffic;
Post 2 candidate Dar Thompson said he didn’t see any difference between putting up an 89,000 square foot store (Kohl’s) or four stores at 25,000 sq. ft. each; he added that based on his calculations the store would bring about $100,000 in taxes to the city each year.
Post 1 candidate Don Haddix said that all the studies on big box stores show they are money losers for cities. He also said “developers don’t have the right to override the property rights of others,” and he noted the proposal from John Wieland Homes to build on an 89-acre office-zoned tract in the West Village that includes a construction landfill should be avoided. Post 1 candidate O’Toole said he didn’t want to see that land zoned for multi-family use.
Post 2 candidate Mark Hollums said he didn’t have a problem with big box stores coming here, but he was interested to see how the city’s special permitting process for big boxes will hold up in court;
Post 2 candidate Mike King said if the city decides to sell the roads, the money should be slated perhaps to pay back city debts;
Post 2 candidate Thompson said the roads are “leverage” for the city to use, and if the city, particularly the citizens nearest the project, decide its a good thing to do “it make absolute sense to do it.”
Post 2 candidate Doug Sturbaum said he thinks the city’s development ordinances “need more teeth.”
Post 1 candidate and incumbent Mike Harman said that though the city can’t keep commercial property from being developed, the city can control whether or not it gets a special permit for a Big Box store, and council can make sure “it looks like and is done in the best interest of the city.”
Post 1 candidate O’Toole said the city shouldn’t just make sure developers meet city development standards, but they should exceed them;
Harman said that he doesn’t like the city’s Target, Wal-Mart and Home Depot big box stores, and he noted that the police chief has told him that the city’s four-lane highways where they are located “allow the city to enter and exit the city more rapidly.”
Hollums said police patrols of the city’s cart path system should be a top priority of the city because it is vulnerable.
“If the bad guys ever figure that out we’d have some problems there,” Hollums said.
King said he wants police to work more with the sheriff’s department’s drug task force and use a drug-sniffing dog to search school parking lots “to find the source and where it’s coming from.”
Harman, who was appointed several months ago to fill a seat vacated by Judi-ann Rutherford, said he has already been working with surrounding governments such as Coweta County in an effort to address current and future traffic problems.
Thompson said he thinks the TDK road extension into Coweta County will be built in the next 5, 10 or 15 years. One of his challengers, Hollums, said if the city is forced to build TDK in the future, he wants the bridge over the CSX railroad tracks to remain two lanes so it becomes “a natural choke point,” for traffic coming from the approved 3,100-home McIntosh Village development just across the county line.
King said he wants to put off building TDK as long as the city can; the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority has required it to be built as part of a condition on McIntosh Village. The city lost a lawsuit challenging GRTA’s authority to hold it accountable for TDK since McIntosh Village is in Coweta County and not under the city’s control.
If the city does not build TDK by the time the last home is completed in McIntosh Village, GRTA could withhold federal and state road funds from the city.
O’Toole said he was against the city extending sewer outside the city limits, and Haddix agreed. O’Toole said the money the city received wouldn’t justify the transaction and Haddix said: “We’d inherit all the traffic.”
Their challenger, incumbent Mike Harman, explained that the proposed sewer deal with Tyrone was off after Tyrone resisted Peachtree City’s wishes to have some “control” over what development the sewer was used for. Harman added that Tyrone’s request came before the Water and Sewer Authority at his last WASA meeting, and although the authority approved having its general manager enter negotiations with Tyrone, Harman noted at the meeting that the City Council would have final say-so on any deal.
WASA is a separate financial entity from the city, although its five member volunteer board is appointed by the City Council.
None of the candidates expressed negative sentiments about the pending referendums for expanding the city’s Gathering Place senior citizen recreation center ... and for building multi-purpose astroturf sports fields at the Hwy. 74 south Baseball and Soccer Complex. The fields would be used for soccer and youth football.
Thompson said he wanted to examine the price quote used to come up with the construction figure for the Gathering Place expansion, as “I could build somewhere in downtown Atlanta for that price.”
King said he thought the city could have funded the Gathering Place expansion in the city budget.
“I don’t want to build a Taj Mahal there,” Hollums said.
Thompson also said it was important for the city to expand its revenue stream and also look at adjusting recreation user fees to recoup more of the cost of running those facilities such as the Kedron aquatic center and fieldhouse. He proposes adding a real estate equity fee to all property transactions which he said would have raised $750,000 for the city over the past two years to use on projects such as cart path improvements.
Haddix said if the city faces future budget cuts, they should come at the expense of recreation instead of police and fire services.
Post 2 candidate Sturbaum missed most of the event, and apologized for doing so. He told the crowd that he had been in the emergency room with his 5-week old baby, which delayed his appearance.

login to post comments