Candidates share views at Rotary forum

Thu, 10/11/2007 - 2:42pm
By: John Munford

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.

Candidates share views at Rotary forum

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.

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All Smiles's picture
Submitted by All Smiles on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 8:40am.

Hey Dar, if I vote for you will you take off the gym enhancement fee from my membership? That really upset me! A thought, how about we approve the Kohl’s next to your new $700,000 house in Centennial? If you win, and you vote yes to Kohl’s, I plan to picket your gyms along with other residents of PTC.

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 8:41pm.

Is there a sign somewhere on city hall that reads “developer’s friends please apply? There has to be another small city somewhere in need of some "developer's friends" on their city council.

”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.”

Exactly what ‘calculations’ have you done?

Have you checked with Fayette to see how much money their Kohl’s is contributing? What about the one in Coweta? How much tax money is it generating?

Since you’ve “done the calculations” why don’t you tell us what the corresponding reduction in sales taxes will be from existing businesses?

Is it alright with you that two, three or more small specialty shops that employ full and part time residents of PTC may be forced out of business because of this proposed big box store?

Do you perceive some need to do your best to eliminate more small, locally owned and operated business’s from PTC?

Do you perceive a need of more vacant smaller retail space in PTC?

Have you read the current ordnance that discourages the development of big box type retail in OUR community?

Just incase you’ve never read it or can’t find it I’ve listed it here for you.

“The city council does hereby find that, based upon studies conducted on behalf of the city and by other cities, big box developments, typically over 32,000 square feet for an individual business, and developments with over 150,000 square feet of retail space, can have negative impacts on a community. In particular, such developments can have a negative impact on the scale of retail development in the community, and can also adversely impact existing retail businesses in the city. Additionally, such developments can result in an over-supply of commercial development within the city, thereby shifting the economic focus of the community. Employment opportunities may also be adversely affected by such developments. Finally, such developments are contrary to the city's comprehensive plan, as well as the goals and objectives of providing public safety services to the city's residents. For the foregoing reasons, the city council has determined it to be in the best interests of the city to provide that such developments may only be established pursuant to a special use permit, subject to the terms and conditions for the application and approval thereof set for in this section.”

Gee, I wonder why it was worded that way.

You obviously don’t seem to care about PTC or its small business owners the way the 75% of PTC’s residents do.

” 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.”

How do you know what the citizens of Planterra or Cardiff Park want? You certainly didn’t ask them and neither has anyone else. Did you ‘calculate’ that as well?

Why don’t you try using our existing ordinances’ as “leverage” instead of our roads?

Is there anything else that PTC has that you think we need to sell to a developer? A tennis center we’re paying for comes to mind. Why don’t you "calculate" what we can get for it and get back with us?

” 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.”

Mr. Thompson, you sure would like us to believe you are a master with other peoples money.

That’s OK, because I “calculate” you probably won’t be getting enough votes for us to worry about your “calculations”.

Please tell us you’re going to promise to lower taxes too. That should just about cinch it for you.

Submitted by d.smith700 on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 5:46am.

There aren't many more fuzzy business than the "gym" business, or at least that is the way it used to be.
Wonder how much he contributes to the tax base with the gyms? Does he own them outright or have partners?
Anyway, most calculations of this sort do leave out the small businesses destroyed, and usually end up contributing less taxes than the small guys did---"fuzzy math" I believe the politicians call it. Bush type calculating.

mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 4:14am.

And he looks good too! At least he can divide by 4 using fuzzy math, but what's 11,000 square feet among friends? All that economic impact and reading of ordiances and understanding the reasoning behind them is for someone else to deal with - someone who might be elected that is. Not that the choices are that great. Unless Dar rallys and wins it looks like we are going to have a Steve Boone type personality and intellect from Post 2. At least Dar has a personality.

The odds of something interesting happening are better in Post 1 - there is the semblance of an issue with the sewer guy against the young newcomer and the professor. I'm sure one of them was encouraged to run by Steve Brown, so I'll just wait until he endorses and then vote for someone else. My guess is the newcomer is Brown's boy, but we'll see.

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 3:42pm.


I’ve included the contents of Mr. Thompson’s WEB page just incase it ‘mysteriously’ disappears.

Dear Peachtree City Citizen(s),

TDK Boulevard along with annexation will be my top priorities.

On January 1, 2002, when Steve Brown took office as Mayor, Peachtree City had already spent nearly $400,000 to design and engineer the extension of TDK Blvd into Coweta County. This represented the culmination of years of effort and the road was ready to build. The Coweta County commission, The Fayette County Commission, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the retailers in Braelinn Village and all the industries in the Industrial Park deemed this project as the most important local road project in Fayette County.

Four years later not a shovel of dirt has been turned in Fayette County towards the completion of this vital project. Worse, FAA regulations have changed since then necessitating extensive revisions to the design and engineering and the acquisition of additional right-of-way. Peachtree City and Fayette County signed a contract under which the County will pay for construction of the road and the City will pay for design, engineering and right-of-way. Therefore, Peachtree City taxpayers will be forced to spend hundreds of thousands of unnecessary dollars.

Mr. Brown has stymied this project for four years. This has crippled our industrial recruiting efforts and the lack of this long-planned relief valve has led to the unbearable, intolerable-and largely unnecessary-traffic conditions on Highway 54 West during its widening. If Mr. Brown is reelected you can be sure that four years from now this road will still not be built.

We should not have to continue to tolerate the economic damage this delay is doing to our community. As Mayor, getting the TDK Blvd extension built will be one of my highest priorities. I will meet as quickly as possible with all the relevant parties, find the best and most economical solution to the problems that have been created, and get the project moving forward to completion. We have funding available and it is time for us to start meeting our obligations and fulfilling our responsibilities as a City.


Dar Thompson
Mayoral Candidate

Didn’t the tax paying citizens make it clear that TDK Blvd. was not wanted?

Didn’t the tax paying citizens make it clear that big box development was not wanted?

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

It appears that Mr. Thompson seems to think he knows what’s best for the citizens of PTC regardless of what “we the citizens” say.

That’s not leadership that’s dictatorship!

I can only surmise that Mr. Thompson would be more than willing to allow any kind of big box development into PTC regardless of what “we the citizens” have to say about it. After all, he’s done the “calculations”.

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 12:00pm.

Can someone explain zero based budgeting?

Submitted by Nitpickers on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 5:59pm.

Politicians tend to start with what has been being spent and add yo it what has been asked for recently. Up in other words.

Zero based starts as if everyone has been released, all budgets cancelled, and no expenses pending.

Then, every position must be justified and their duties enumerated, and all other expenses handled the same way. Of course Bond Debt that is committed must be budgeted---but maybe can be re-financed or something of that nature to save money.

Wouldn't it be amazing if ever it were recommended by a government that we release 10% of the crew and cut last year's budget by 10%?

It won't happen however, because the jobs of those doing the budget....oh, never mind!

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 2:44pm.

That's pretty much how I thought it worked.
Seems like it would be difficult to apply this to a budget with as many line items as a municipality.
The accounting paperwork alone could prove to be quite burdensome.

bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 12:21pm.

The term "Zero-Based Budgeting" is sometimes used in personal finance to describe the practice of budgeting every dollar of income that you receive, and then adjusting some part of the budget downward for every other part that needs to be adjusted upward. It would be more technically correct to refer to this practice as "Active Balanced Budgeting".

More here

Mark Hollums's picture
Submitted by Mark Hollums on Thu, 10/11/2007 - 8:01pm.

I have just a few comments and clarifications regarding my remarks at the Rotary candidate's forum Tuesday evening, October 9th. First off, my compliments go to John Munford. The program was 2 hours in length and the format basically followed alternating questions for each Post's candidates with each candidate being allowed a 90 second response. That means a lot of content was thrown at the audience in rapid-fire order and Mr. Munford has done a fairly decent job of condensing all that material into a concise news article.

Having said that... as a candidate, I found it difficult to organize and succinctly express my thoughts effectively given the constraints allowed and the fact that all remarks were unprepared and off the cuff. Still, forums such as this have great value and the Rotary Club should be commended for hosting the event.

In the article, Mr. Munford paraphrases me by stating that "...there are too many police officers on staff now judging by the amount of traffic fines the city collects annually." I believe that this comment was in reference to a question about whether the Recreation Department's budget was excessive given that it approached the amount of the money spent on our Police force.

What I actually said was that formerly I had lived in East Point for over 30 years before moving to Peachtree City 15 years ago, that both cities were comparable in size, that East Point's Police budget was about $14.6 million while Peachtree City's Police budget was about $5.9 million, and that I thought that we were getting a pretty good bargain. I then quipped that the City was collecting over $1 million dollars a year in fines, but I never stated that we have too many police officers on staff.

The second point that I need to clarify is that I am quoted as saying that I don't "... have a problem with big box stores coming here, but [I] was interested to see how the city’s special permitting process for big boxes will hold up in court." The second part of that statement is true… the first part is not. What I actually said was that in principle, I did not favor big box stores coming to Peachtree City.

I also stated that I would like to see a comprehensive traffic study for the Kohl's and Hwy 54/Hwy 34/Fisher Road projects and what the net financial impact of Kohl's would mean for the City. This is not a blanket endorsement of big box stores. I also said that my gut was that Kohl’s probably would prove to be a net positive revenue impact; however, that is purely speculation as I do not have enough information at this time to support that contention.

I then stated my concerns for the precedent of allowing big box stores into the City and that I was interested to see how the new Special User Permit would hold up in this regard. I also complimented the homeowners group of Cardiff Park / Planterra Ridge for the outstanding job of negotiating the aesthetic improvements in the Kohl’s proposal because they deserve it.

Other issues discussed that night were edited likely due to space constraints. I hope to cover some of those topics in upcoming essays to the paper.

Many thanks to The Citizen for making this forum available to the citizens of our community.

Submitted by skyspy on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 8:03am.

Also what are your plans to keep us from turning into East Point or riverdale? We are in the downhill slide, what can you do to pull us up?

Submitted by d.smith700 on Fri, 10/12/2007 - 7:44am.

You seem to be constrained a lot?
No one cares about East Point anyway as to number of police. If we can issue a million in fines with ours, why not 5 million for the whole budget? Hire some more ticket writers!

Submitted by DWKK07 on Tue, 10/16/2007 - 12:21pm.

"If we can issue a million in fines with ours, why not 5 million for the whole budget? Hire some more ticket writers"

Seems reasonable to me. Too bad the city can't muster up enough motivation for the police department employees to keep the officers they already have, let alone hire any new ones. There was an article a while back that said they are short like 12 people of their 28 person patrol division or something to that effect - I don't know if that's still the case, but that's pretty bad if it is. I also found it kind of embarassing as a resident here to find out that a place of such high per capita income and high tax base would have the lowest starting pay of all the similar size cities surveyed when they were debating this issue with the city council.

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