Setting the record straight on I-75 bridge beautification project
by Don McKee
September 17, 2012 01:33 AM | 1121 views | 6 6 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
Let me set the record straight on the $1 million beautification project for the Cumberland Boulevard bridge over Interstate 75.

First, no Cobb County tax money is being spent on this project by the Cumberland Community Improvement District, contrary to what was stated in Friday’s column, according to CCID chairman Tad Leithead, Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott and county spokesman Robert Quigley. That’s good news for Cobb taxpayers.

Last week the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved $167,000 payment for a new engineering firm for the project, as reported, but that money did not come from county funds. Instead, the commission was merely serving as the legal conduit for transferring the money from the CCID’s own funds. That’s because the CID has qualified for an $800,000 federal grant — which requires the county governing body to play the role of legal rubber stamp.

“The county administers the contract but the funding in question is provided by the CCID, which funds come voluntarily from the 180 members of the CCID,” said Leithead in an e-mail. He also said there was “no budget increase” for design and engineering, explaining that the original firm, Mills Specialty Metals, was paid $64,000 last year for “the concept design,” but the $167,000 payment to Pond & Company was for “engineering drawings, which provide the specific details for the construction project.”

In comments reported last Thursday, Leithead told the Journal’s Jon Gillooly that the CCID intended to foot the entire $985,000 cost of the project, but “when we qualified for the federal grant, the $800,000 federal grant, the federal contribution requires that we use an engineering firm that is prequalified under federal rules … and because Ginny Rainey’s firm (Mills Specialty Metals) was not prequalified with the federal government, that required that we change engineering firms.”

Federal and state governments “will not give the grant money directly to a CID,” said Cobb communications director Robert Quigley. “Therefore, the county accepts the money on behalf of the CID and then pay the bills for that project on behalf of the CID from those funds.”

Commissioner Bob Ott of east Cobb, whose district includes the CCID, said “one of the problems we have” is the way items are placed on the commission’s agenda. “We have a tendency to write agenda items so that we can understand (them). We do not write for the general public.” He said he wants the items written “for the average citizen that….wants to know what their government is doing and understands what we’re doing.” Now that’s a good idea.

Again, obviously, there’s no concern about the CCID spending money from its self-imposed tax for whatever purpose the members of the district decide upon. But there's a lot of concern about the federal government handing out $800,000 to beautify a bridge when our nation is drowning in a $16 trillion sea of red ink – and the CCID had planned to pay for the entire project itself until the federal grant came through.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 17, 2012
I am still with you on this one.

Note to "conservative" Republican politicians. When you moan and groan about big old bad Washington and budget deficits, have you ever thought you are part of the problem?
Cobb Taxpayer
September 17, 2012
Local, state or federal taxes is still taxpayer money for a private interest - Let the CID pay 100% - they have abused taxpayers for years on all of their projects ! Call them out - Mr. Lighthead has been doing this crap for his entire adult life at Cumberland !
Tucker Hobgood
September 17, 2012
As a commercial tenant in the CCID, it is news to me that the tax funds "come voluntarily" from its 180 members. Most commercial tenants, like me, have "triple-net" leases that require the tenant to reimburse the landlord for any property tax increases. I don't believe there is an exception for any "voluntarily" assumed by the landlord, but perhaps I'm wrong.
September 17, 2012
County taxpayers are paying for the in kind services provided by county staff.

It doesn't matter if administration by the county is a requirement of the federal grant.

That administrative cost be provided by the county should be reimbursed to the county by the CID.

The $800,000 is, in fact, taxpayer generated money.

Just because it has been "laundered" through the feds and the state doesn't make it any less so.

It should be used for needed basic transportation infrastructure not for beautifying a bridge so the CID can feel good.

Piney Woods Pete II
September 17, 2012
The CCID never intended to pay the full costs of this project. As first reported in the MDJ months ago, the project was always tied to a federal grant as are all CCID projects.

Community Improvement Districts were presented to the public as a way to create a self taxing district which would allow property owners in the district to make improvements in the district.

in fact the real motive of the property owners was to create a legal entity which would allow them to apply for federal grants.

Pat H
September 17, 2012
Note to CID and Commissioners: Federal money is still our money. Well, those of us who pay income taxes, that is.

We are not paying for this project however. Our grandchildren will have to pay for it.
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