Commissioners reluctant to rescind vote on environmental study
by Geoff Folsom
August 15, 2012 01:06 AM | 2850 views | 9 9 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Cobb County Civic Coalition is urging county commissioners to rescind their July 24 vote to award a $3 million environmental study that is related to the uncompleted Alternatives Analysis transportation study. However, its request was met with reluctance, with county Chairman Tim Lee giving no indication he is willing to reconsider, along with three commissioners who voted for the study.

Leaders of the civic coalition, which is an organization of community groups and individuals who describe themselves as a “think tank” on local issues, point out that after the failure of the proposed regional sales tax for transportation projects, there will be no money to build any project recommended by the AA study, rendering an environmental study moot.

“It’s really going to be an obsolete study,” said Tricia Clements, a board member of the Cobb Civic Coalition. “There’s no money to build the project.”

Results of the $1.8 million Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis study are tentatively scheduled to be presented to commissioners on Sept. 25. That study is designed to recommend the best mode and route for mass transit in Cobb.

On July 24 — a week before voters in Cobb and across metro Atlanta overwhelming rejected the proposed TSPLOST — commissioners voted 4-1, with southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott opposed, to approve a $3 million contract with Raleigh, N.C., based Kimley-Horn and Associates to study the environmental impact of the AA’s preferred mode and location. As with the AA, 80 percent of the latter study is to be paid by the federal government.

That contract has not yet been signed, county spokesman Robert Quigley said. He was unsure when it will be signed.

Ott said that one of the four commissioners who voted in favor of awarding the environmental study would have to ask for a revote, since only a commissioner who votes in favor of an agenda item can move to rescind it.

“I stand by that vote,” Ott said.

Chairman Lee and Cobb DOT Director Faye DiMassimo asked that questions on the coalition’s request be submitted to them by email. But instead of answering the questions, they issued this statement through Quigley: “Since August 2009, Cobb DOT, our stakeholders along the NW Corridor and the US DOT have been working together to identify solutions for traffic congestion in the NW Corridor. Funding for this effort is comprised of approximately $800,000 local dollars and $4 million from the federal government,” the statement said. “When this study is completed, we will have identified the most effective solution for this corridor. That information will be used to guide Cobb as it plans for the future. This study remains a priority for Cobb County.”

Commissioners Helen Goreham and JoAnn Birrell said they will not motion to rescind a vote on the environmental study, since the county’s portion of the study is paid through the 2011 SPLOST, which was approved by voters.

“This is a planning tool to look at that corridor,” Goreham said. “I look at this as a continuum of planning, which Cobb is known for, to prepare for the future.”

Southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson came closest of any of the four commissioners who supported the environmental study to calling to rescind the vote.

“I would consider it,” he said. “DOT tells me that it is (necessary). I hope the information doesn’t get stale, because we do not know when we will have a funding source.”

But Bill Byrne, who is facing Lee in Tuesday’s runoff for the Republican nomination for chairman, said the environmental study can be stopped, even after the contract is signed, though the county may have to pay a penalty. Byrne said he will motion to rescind the environmental study if he takes office in January, but he hopes Ott can find two more votes in support of doing so before then.

“The justification for having an environmental impact statement is no longer on the board,” he said. “The voters rejected the transit proposal that was part of the TSPLOST. Spending $3 million to study something that isn’t going to be built makes no sense.”

Clements said the county was unwise to vote on the environmental study before the TSPLOST referendum.

“It should have been done later, so they can see what their constituents say,” she said.

Coalition President Ron Sifen said his group has an eight-member board, but doesn’t release the names of individual members or who they represent. While the group makes recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, he said it is rare for it to ask to rescind a vote.

The federal transit administration contributed $1.5 million toward the AA, and the county contributed $205,864. Kennesaw State University and the Town Center and Cumberland community improvement districts each kicked in $40,000, while the cities of Marietta, Acworth, Kennesaw and Smyrna each gave $10,000 toward the study.
Comments
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I Say
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August 15, 2012
8 Million dollars to come from the Federal Government. Where do the commissioners think the Federal Government gets the money in the first place??????? And by the time they figure out funding for doing a project, the study will be obsolete and we'll have to pay for a new study. I think we have enough obsolete studies on file now. As Barney Fife would say, "Nip it in the bud".
TIC
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August 15, 2012
Both of these studies will probably have to be redone if and when funding is identified to build whatever project is identified in the rigged Alternatives Analysis.

No federal funding is in the offing anytime in the near future.

These studies, by their very nature, have a relatively short shelf life.

Add to that the fact that a contract has not been signed, the TSPLOST was stomped flat and 70% of Cobb County voters have made their feelings crystal clear.

There are only a couple of reasons that the commissioners would actually move forward with this fiasco and none of those reasons is very flattering.

dumb and dumber
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August 15, 2012
To TIC, these studies have no shelf life. Before making statements that have no validly and you can not back up, why don't you check and get facts instead of speaking crap.
TIC
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August 16, 2012
@ dumb and dumber

Check with the FTA and the EPA and you will see that I am correct.

Projects like this have to follow a consistent and unbroken timeline in order to be considered for further federal funding.

If you have significant gaps in the process the situation (politically, regulation wise and especially environmentally) invariably changes and the studies have to be redone, or at the very least, updated to accomodate those changes.

That requires even more funding from the taxpayers.

lost my vote
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August 15, 2012
Well, Lee just lost my vote. Apparently he just doesn't care what the public thinks about spending the money on this study. Well, guess he is starting (his new term) the way he plans to go on, as they say. Voters better wake up, there will be other budget blasting ideas coming from this Commissioner and his Commission.
Get real
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August 15, 2012
Hey "Lost my Vote", I am sure that Lee never had your vote so big deal. But Lee does care about what the voters say. The funding for this study was contained in SPLOST 11 which passed ness you were asleep. If you don't like the ideas coming from the commission, please let me help you move!
anonymous
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August 15, 2012
JoAnn Birrell has lost my support. She has proved that she is as supportive of wasting money on unnecessary projects as the next mindless bureaucrat/politician.

I am afraid she is as much of an appendage of the Cobb Chamber as Tim Lee.
Pat H
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August 15, 2012
Amen. Why do these people think that because it comes from a SPLOST pot of money that they can't change the expenditure and return that money to taxpayers.

The funding for the environmental study could go to replace the 200 grand we spent for the useless AA study. The contract has not yet been signed - stop it now.
SG68
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August 15, 2012
@ anonymous

I am with you.

It's obvious that Lee is an irresponsible steward of the county's tax money, but I though Birrell had better judgement.

I normally am not a one issue voter, but this is such a blatant case of wasting tax dollars I am going to have to vote against Birrell next time around.

Sorry JoAnn this just doesn't wash.
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