Chairman Lee’s $368K transit funding request voted down 3-2
by Nikki Wiley
August 14, 2013 12:28 AM | 4739 views | 10 10 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee
MARIETTA — Three Cobb commissioners shot down Chairman Tim Lee’s request Tuesday to spend another $368,000 on a transportation plan that has already received $1.4 million.

The Cobb Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to deny approving the added expense that would have brought the county’s bill to Dutch engineering firm Arcadis to just over $1.7 million.

The initial $1.4 million payment approved in February is to prepare a transportation plan updated by the county every five years to be eligible for state and federal grants. Lee told the MDJ earlier in the week he decided about two months ago the report should include what transportation improvements the community wants to see and how the county could fund those projects.

And that’s what the almost $400,000 would have paid for, specifically technical analysis, public education, communications and community engagement that county staff considers “essential to the success of the project,” according to a memo given to the commissioners.

Lee said the $368,000 added cost would be less than 1 percent of what the county will spend over the next five years on transportation.

“Everyone will tell you that investment is minor and small and a good investment,” he said.

But the majority of his colleagues disagreed.

Commissioners Bob Ott, JoAnn Birrell and Lisa Cupid voted against spending the additional cash.

“I just could not justify the direction that was going to take us in,” Ott said.

Ott said he thought the community engagement and analysis that would have been paid for with the requested $368,000 was included in the amount originally approved.

“My understanding was that the $1.4 million had that included. … They told us now that that’s not the case.”

Birrell, too, said she could not reconcile the cost that would have come from the 2011 special purpose local option sales tax fund.

Cupid did not return a message left by the MDJ on Tuesday.

The plan Arcadis is already working on will include a $1.1 billion bus route extending from Kennesaw State University to Midtown, Atlanta, among other plans commissioned by the board. Lee has said he wants to see the project come to fruition but won’t pursue it if the majority of residents don’t agree.

Arcadis consultant James Hudgins was a proud campaign supporter of Lee, walking with him during last year’s Marietta Fourth of July Parade donning a “re-elect Lee” shirt.

After Tuesday’s vote, Lee was clearly rankled.

“I always thought we were a little more forward thinking,” Lee told his fellow commissioners.

He maintains the county’s transportation department has the largest need for planning, and the plan is important to make sure Cobb is making the “right investment tomorrow.”

Faye DiMassimo, director of the transportation department, also said there is a lot riding on the updated plan.

“Just from 2008 to now, many things have changed,” she said, referring to the last plan completed five years ago.

Among those changes are a struggling economy and the dual reversible toll lanes commissioned by Gov. Nathan Deal for Interstates 75 and 575 through Cobb and Cherokee counties.

The department learned from its mistakes following the transportation SPLOST rejected by voters in 2012, DiMassimo said, and has planned about two dozen “listening sessions” in the community.

It is “labor intensive” to staff those meetings, she said. DiMassimo said that she has already made plans to meet with a diverse group of civic organizations including Rich Pellegrino’s Cobb Immigrant Alliance, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Cobb Civic Coalition and the East Cobb Civic Association.

Lee and DiMassimo discussed the merits of the plan before the failed vote when Lee told DiMassimo, “Faye, we’ll go back to the old way of doing things.”

He described that “old way” as not making a substantial effort to involve the public in transportation decisions.

Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents northwest Cobb, says the expansion of the contract was an attempt to get more people involved.

“I’m disappointed,” Goreham said. “I think this board has missed an opportunity to make a difference in the area of transportation for Cobb County.

“It’s a comment to me that says let’s continue doing business as we’ve always done business.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
August 14, 2013
Pay for it with SPLOST funds? Even that is wrong. SPLOST begins with a list of projects. They are supposed to do the projects that were on the list when the voters spoke. Do all the projects on the list and stop. Extra money coming in on SPLOST is not a blank check for anyone. Do the project list and stop collecting the tax.
north ga
August 14, 2013
I wish Acworth had a few of these commissioners, to help make decisions.
Ty monty
August 14, 2013
Gee, Ms. Goreham, I thought just giving King Tim whatever he wanted was the "old way of doing business".

Maybe if you folks would do things in the open and talk to your constituents between election campaigns you could save $368k for a study.
Another Cob Resident
August 14, 2013
Sounds as if Mr. Lee does NOT have the full support of the new commissioner, Ms. Cupid. Being a S. Cobb resident, I'm very glad to see that.

Mr. Lee may now have to work with the other commissioners to get things done as it seems Ott, and Cupid will not just fall in line.
Mike Edmonson
August 14, 2013
Any transportation plan would include public outreach. There's no way that the scope wouldn't include outreach and proposed transportation projects. That's the entire goal of such a study! I think they saw that SPLOST revenues were running higher than expected and tried to do a quick cash grab!

Sounds like Mr. Lee likes to pad the wallets of those close to him. This Croy/Arcadis team is also making $1m on the fruitless light rail study. We'll be Gwinnett before long... Might be time to do a story on campaign contributions.

All this waste. Thanks to Mr Ott, Ms Birrell and Ms Cupid. Save this money and invest in something Cobb residents will actually use!!!
Cobb Resident
August 14, 2013
If the added analysis was to be part of the original $1.4 million contract, I don't blame the commission for denying the additional funds. Sounds as if that company is trying the old 'bait & switch' on the Cobb residents.

Wonder if the owner of the company was on hand wearing his 'Vote for Lee' t-shirt. That part is shady at best....
Samuel Adams
August 14, 2013
Sorry you didn't get your way on this Chairman Lee. You could always Google "Agenda 21" on YouTube and get the same information you'd likely get spending a fortune of our money with the "Dutch firm Arcadis."

How to hold public meetings to get us to "buy in" to a transit plan, how to get us to feel good about our property rights being eroded, our suburban lifestyle being invaded by more dense's all right there on YouTube and much cheaper than this failed contract. Way to go Ott, Cupid and Burrell. And what has happened to Helen Goreham?
August 14, 2013
Finally some good news out of the commissioners. Thank you Bob Ott, JoAnn Birrell and especially newcomer Lisa Cupid for standing up to the bullying Tim Lee and his sidekick Helen Goreham.

I find it rich that those two claimed that the money was to have gone to "community engagement and analysis." That's code for another propaganda effort to push yet more wasteful spending on things like the BRT scheme that Tim Lee and Faye have been pining for for years.

No doubt that the taxpayers of Cobb cannot afford this kind of pork. The voters rejected the TSPLOST and it's wasteful big government approach only a year ago.

And does anyone else find it incredibly distasteful and appearing to be improper that a contracting firm that supported Tim Lee's re-election last year stood to gain the most from this scam?

August 14, 2013
“I always thought we were a little more forward thinking,” Lee told his fellow commissioners.

“Code word forward thinking sounds like Carol Brown Democratic thinking”

It’s all about the most expensive least cost effective way they can build high rises buildings in the Platinum Triangle the European model that was brought here by the United Nations. You can’t have your own regional identity one size fits all is the ARC mantra big brother is watching. Timmy just knew he could go back to the well one more time I guess this puts Helen on shaking ground for reelection. Timmy is going to have to do something for Lisa’s district otherwise it’s going to be a good skeet shoot at 100 Cherokee Street.

August 14, 2013
"Forward thinking" kind of has the same tone as "sustainability" from the UN's Agenda 21.

The ARC was not happy with last night's vote.
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