Coweta-RDC or ARC?

Thu, 08/14/2008 - 3:28pm
By: Ben Nelms

RDC or ARC? It is more than just letters of the alphabet and it could be the difference from being a big fish in a little pond or being a small player with a seat at the table. A discussion by Coweta County commissioners last week on whether to stay in the Chattahoochee-Flint Regional Development Center (RDC) or to join Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) was delayed until the commission’s Sept. 4 meeting.

As long-time members of Chattahoochee-Flint RDC, Commissioner Paul Poole held to the position that Coweta should remain with the organization. Poole was insistent that the city of Atlanta “calls the shots” in the multi-county ARC. His insistence crossed hairs with Chairman Tim Higgins, who said he was open to the idea of considering ARC membership since it has significant influence in determining the outcomes of issues that will impact Coweta.

“I used to think like Paul, but I’ve changed my mind,” Higgins said, noting that ARC membership would necessitate an increased physical presence for meetings in the Atlanta area and adding that, even with a smaller populaton than Coweta, Fayette County makes its presence on the board felt. “ARC has more resources, but we would be 9th or 10th in population and would probably have to share a representative with Douglas or Fayette. We’re being impacted by ARC but we have no voice.”

Another variable in the RDC/ARC equation comes in the form of what could be become an entirely new, and much larger, RDC. As in other areas of Georgia, the potential exists for Chattahoochee-Flint RDC to merge with McIntosh RDC to become an entirely new, legislatively-inspired entity, one of the new Regional Centers (RCs). Specific to Coweta, it would become the largest of the proposed 10-county RC.

In terms of cost, Higgins said membership in ARC or in the new RC would be about the same.

Membership in the new RC could provide Coweta with an advantage in terms of its population density and economy, said Commissioner Tim Lassetter.

“If we try to direct the new RC, and be the big fish, we should have input in its direction. And we could go to ARC in a year or two,” Lassetter said. “If we join ARC now, we can’t leave.”

A potential concern of an ARC membership involved the number of meetings the commission chairman or a designee would need to attend. In addition to such an affiliation, Commissioner Randolph Collins, like others on the commission in past meetings, referenced the potential need for the chairman to become a full-time position at some point, particularly in light of Coweta’s geographic location inside the 29-county Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area. Atlanta for years has been and continues to be the nation’s fastest growing metro area.

“We will be a bigger fish in the next five years and we will need a full-time chairman,” Collins said.

Collins was one that suggested that a vote on the RDC/ARC issue could wait until September.

“I’m not prepared to decide tonight,” he said. “We will be in ARC eventually. We don’t have a vote on most of these boards. People make decisions for us. We can be small in the ARC or bigger in a new RDC.”

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