Imker bid to halt project fails

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 2:45pm
By: John Munford

Councilman wants SPLOST funds to balance budget

A bid to halt the design of the widening of the Lake Peachtree cart path bridge fell flat Thursday night.

Peachtree City Councilman Eric Imker said the projected $45,000 in savings would be better spent towards other street, road and cart path improvements. He argued that the bridge widening was not a necessity since the bridge is in fine structural shape.

But he failed to convince his fellow council members; his motion to kill the design failed on a 4-1 vote, with Imker the lone "nay" vote. The design is being paid for by revenues from the 2005 transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax that was approved by county voters.

Councilman Doug Sturbaum suggested that once the design is complete the bridge could qualify for money from a potential second round of stimulus funding from the federal government.

The bridge has a potential to save roughly $300,000 off its initial cost estimate, with the surplus funds being used to widen the paths leading to the bridge from the City Hall/Library complex, officials have said.

Imker has designs on canceling the entire bridge widening project. Council has not yet voted to authorize construction. He argued that the project is not a necessity but a “nice to have” that the city can afford to delay for several years.

Resident Robert Brown reminded council that if the project is delayed, not only will the current cost savings be lost but the project’s budget will balloon.

“If you don’t build now, the cost of this bridge will be significantly higher,” Brown said.

Resident Andy Jurchenko disagreed, noting the city laid off a significant amount of public works employees last year and cancelled benefits for part-time employees to save costs. Jurchenko said funding the design and construction of the bridge would constitute “poor fiscal management.”

The current bridge is seven feet wide, barely large enough to accommodate a golf cart and a pedestrian side by side, officials have said.

Mayor Don Haddix said he was concerned that the bridge’s narrow width could lead to someone being injured. He also said the project would be more costly if it is delayed.

“When you wait, you pay more and we have seen that on other projects,” Haddix said.

Sturbaum said the city has already cancelled several SPLOST projects for a cost savings of $1.7 million. Imker noted that the city currently has $3.37 million in unobligated SPLOST funds that he wants to use to help balance the city’s budget for the next few years.

“I want to save every penny of that for that purpose,” Imker said.

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Submitted by PTClurker on Mon, 02/22/2010 - 10:38am.

It appears that Haddix and the rest of the council's heart is in the right place on this topic, but what they don't seem to understand is the following: When you own a chevy (the bridge that works) and someone offers to sell you a corvette (widening of the bridge) and tells you it would be "cheaper now to buy it then to wait until later".... the point is missed that you don't NEED the corvette in the first place! Especially when you can't afford it! Citizen Steve hit the nail on the head. It's sad that Imker is the only one on council who sees this.

Oh well. The score: Asinine spending: 1, Common sense: 0

Submitted by Spyglass on Sat, 02/20/2010 - 8:03pm.

Imker needs to look for it.

Submitted by Insayn on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:23pm.

What this article doesnt tell you is that $30,000 had already been allocated and spent in planning the project. If they didnt vote to continue with the planning (not the construction of,. which they dont have to do anytime soon) they would have thrown away that $30,000 and would have to spend an extra $30,000 when they started the project again. So by continuing with the planning the others in city council actually saved the city $60,000.

Submitted by Citizen_Steve on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:29pm.

So since we put down $30k on something we don't need, we should spend more for that something we don't need? Your financial savvy could earn you a future on the Peachtree City Council.


Submitted by Insayn on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:37pm.

like it or not the money has been spent. Throw away 30,000 and pay it again later for a total of 105,000 or continue with the project and spend 75,000? wheres your economic savvy? do we need the bridge. not right now, but 1. the money has been spent (for planning only) and B. like the article said 2 years from now it will cost 150,000 for the planning.

Submitted by Citizen_Steve on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:00pm.

Eric Imker has replaced Haddix as the voice of reason. Granted it was easy for Haddix to be the one considering the other unreasonable councilpersons. I travel that path often and it has never, ever been a problem - other golf carters have always been courteous at the bridge. It would never occur to me that precious funds should be spent to widen that bridge, especially when we're laying off employees and rolling back city services. Haddix asserting that he's concerned about safety is disingenuous at best.


Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:27pm.

The vote was not 3-2, it was 4-1 against his proposal.

Over $30,000 has been spent on the project already. To stop not only throws away those tax dollars but would disqualify us from getting Federal money to pay for the project.

There is a lack of shovel ready projects that qualify, so this bridge plus the 54W Gateway bridge and the unfinished tunnel by McDuff, which has to be finished, could all be covered at potentially no further cost to the taxpayers. A savings of almost a million dollars to the taxpayers.

The Airport received $3,000,000 for the very same reasons so we have an excellent chance at this funding. By that I meant being shovel ready when other places have no such ready projects.

As well the statement we have $3.3 million is inaccurate. For the 2011 budget we will have about $1.7 million, which repairs a lot of cart path immediate needs for a few years but will not allow continued repaving and widening of paths.

There have been issues on the bridge in the past. I have lived very close to it for 23 years. It was put on the list in 2004 for good reasons.

Finally, the bridge as a whole is not in good shape. The engineers have noted the railing is in poor condition. So making those repairs a part of a total project rolls in costs that are going to happen anyway and stops the waste of $30,000 already spent.

The news article does not give all the details. There was excellent reason to continue the design.

Don Haddix
Mayor Peachtree City

Submitted by Citizen_Steve on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:41pm.

Ok, I guess perspective is everything here. I'm a tax paying funder and you're a opportunist spender. You're trying to justify me working more to pay more property taxes for your bridge upgrade because you can get the federal government to borrow more money and give it to you and then make me work more to pay more federal tax to pay back the money that is channeled back to your bridge project, plus the interest on the debt. (run-on sentence is a metaphor for this entire concept)

I really don't mean to be harsh about this, but the article doesn't tell the entire story and your post does not either. Unnecessary spending is wrong, regardless of the incentives that drive it.


Don Haddix's picture
Submitted by Don Haddix on Fri, 02/19/2010 - 11:59pm.

As an Independent who is more conservative than either major party I don't like what the State and Feds are doing. Not one spec.

The money is appropriated and will be dispersed, like it or not. Part of what the Feds have done to get that money is to have dumped a lot more mandated costs on the States, Counties and Municipalities. That means we all are paying for it at every level.

So, you can demand we say no and the money will go elsewhere if we do. Or, you can back us in trying to bring some of it back to us here. Either way we are all going to pay the taxes that fund it, either in whole or in part.

In the mean time start electing people to Congress and the White House that actually will do their jobs the right way. Voters put them there and only voters can actually make it change.

Until then I am required by law to balance budgets and will keep trying to do the best Budget wise I can for PTC. Councilman Sturbaum and I have pushed to cut spending the last two years, now into the third, and have voted for over $4 million in cuts so far.

But understand, the fat is gone. There isn't enough left to balance the Budget without cutting services, raising taxes, using Reserves or a combination thereof.

Losing SPLOST alone cut $2 million a year from income and Sales Tax continues to slide. Unlike the Feds we cannot print money to make up for it.

All of this will be discussed publicly beginning at the Retreat. Please attend.

Don Haddix
Mayor Peachtree City

Submitted by PTC Observer on Sun, 02/21/2010 - 1:33pm.

If you are going to raise taxes, so be it. If so, let's hear what you and the council are proposing. Either way as you point out you have to balance the budget so, let's hear about those cuts as well. Now is the time for some leadership, let's see it.

I think that Mr. Imker is the forerunner of a new type of "realistic" politician, we may not like the message but at least it's rooted in realism. I don't know if his priorities are right but his approach is a thing that we will see in our community and across the nation in the future.

In this environment, we need to get a grip on the reality of our economy and what we expect out of our government and the services it provides. It up to the council as our elected representatives to provide that leadership.

NUK_1's picture
Submitted by NUK_1 on Mon, 02/22/2010 - 12:04pm.

I actually prefer his message more than his approach which reminds me too much of Haddix and Steve Brown outsider hysterics and drama.

Imker wants to cut, cut, cut and I agree with that because it's the reality of fiscal prudence in tough times. What I don't agree with is him going out on his own like a cowboy and also assuming that there's tons of waste and everything can be A-OK by simply "cutting waste" or "no tax increases, no use of reserves, no cuts in service." That's a total crock. You have to man-up and put it to the citizens in direct terms like "we may cut services, we may cut personnel, we may......, now, do u want to pay more taxes or go the other route of serious cuts?"

One thing that is crystal-clear is that all politics are indeed local and PTC Mayor/Council is no different. There is a very strong tendency to want to keep being elected and being in "power" and achieving that with a whole lot of BS or political theater. Leadership? Not happening.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Mon, 02/22/2010 - 1:10pm.

Like Prezbo, Mr. Imker is taking that role of outsider - as a campaigner and it is time to get down to work and take some responsibility. Even Steve Brown was able to focus on specifics - especially at the Council Retreat. Hopefully Imker will recognize teamwork is the way to go during the Retreat - otherwise, we have a vocal weak link.

BTW, raising taxes is inevitable unless you want to raid the reserves and be totally irresponsible. Yes, we need to make some cuts, but you can't make enough to avoid a tax increase. Sooner they admit it and get on with it, the more respect I will have for them.

Mike King's picture
Submitted by Mike King on Mon, 02/22/2010 - 1:21pm.

I hope you are right regarding Mr Imker, but the more I see or hear him in action, the more doubtful I am.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Mon, 02/22/2010 - 1:57pm.

At least his performance at the retreat will remove all doubt. Worst possible scenario is that the bull in the china shop approach will prevent any alliances with him and there will be lots of 4-1 votes.

Most showboating politicians with any class at all change their ways when they realize there is no benefit to being on the losing end of most votes. Usually your constituants make it clear as well.

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