Cobb Commissioners differ on necessity of funding public outreach on transportation
by Nikki Wiley
August 15, 2013 12:27 AM | 3677 views | 8 8 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Although Cobb Chairman Tim Lee said Tuesday another $368,000 is needed for outreach in a transportation plan update, the original $1.4 million consulting contract already spells out specific requirements for engaging the community. Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, said the Netherlands-based consultant, Arcadis, is already bound to perform extensive community outreach, including 12 to 15 “listening sessions” or town hall-style meetings with Cobb residents.

But Lee says he wanted more community engagement and pushed for the additional funding.

The deal he proposed would have increased public involvement, he says, and required Arcadis to identify potential funding sources for sweeping transportation changes in Cobb County.

But Lee’s request came with a cost that a majority of the board didn’t want to pay. It would have raised the fee paid to Arcadis to $1.7 million, but the request failed in a 3-2 vote Tuesday with commissioners Lisa Cupid and JoAnn Birrell joining Ott in opposition. The company has already been hired to update Cobb’s comprehensive transportation plan — something the county does every five years to stay competitive for federal grant money.

Ott says the county can make an effort to get residents’ opinions on transportation needs without spending the extra cash. The original contract still allows the study and research to happen, he said.

“What additional stuff are we getting that isn’t included in the contract besides a video?” Ott asked. “What I saw in the original contract was a study and citizen outreach. I had a hard time figuring out what the $368,000 was going to buy that improved our citizen outreach.”

Cupid, representing southwest Cobb, echoed Ott’s statements in an email.

“I did not support the increase because tasks associated with the (more than quarter-million dollar) increase — unique outreach and identification and substantiation of funding sources — were already included in the scope of work for the original contract,” Cupid wrote late Tuesday.

Under the original agreement, approved by commissioners in February, Arcadis is required to write a plan spelling out how they will involve the community, called a Public Involvement Plan, “seek(ing) to implement the notion that ‘Every Citizen Counts.’”

Arcadis was to submit that plan to the county within four weeks of getting the go-ahead to begin work and was to make county-suggested changes appropriate to the “scope and budget of the (comprehensive transportation plan) contract.”

But Lee said those changes have limits and Arcadis “had it in mind based on past contracts” that it would need more money to do what he asked.

“That’s not just chicken feed you move around in a contract,” Lee said Wednesday.

Chairman stands by position

Lee told his fellow commissioners Tuesday the cost, which he said would be less than 1 percent of what the county will spend on transportation over the next five years, is well worth it.

“This is not necessarily an expense,” Lee said before the failed vote Tuesday. “It is an investment.”

He wants a more robust community effort that is “farther reaching with a deeper conversation.”

The failed agreement would have included the creation of a “summary results video” for $83,800. An “education” program would have cost $105,000 with another $29,000 going to “miscellaneous services that may be required.”

But the bulk of the money, $150,200, would have been spent on a “beneficiary analysis.” That would have examined benefits of future transportation alternatives and would have provided “quantitative support of expected future vision benefits.”

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.

He calls it a “holistic, county-wide effort” and said the bus route won’t be the only thing included in the update.

“The (comprehensive transportation plan) is going to look at other areas,” Lee said.

The analysis will be done alongside public meetings, he said, to make sure it takes a look at what residents want.

“I feel additional outreach is required … in order to get an actionable plan that explores cost benefit and consumer priority,” Lee said.

Goreham: $1.4 million plan will ‘sit on shelf’

Commissioner Helen Goreham voted alongside Lee to approve the expense.

She says the county has learned from mistakes it made during last year’s failed transportation SPLOST and the extra $368,000 would have enabled the county to reach more residents.

“I still stand by the fact that this was needed, that it was appropriate contrary to those who say that it wasn’t,” Goreham said.

Without the effort to go above and beyond in reaching residents, Goreham said, the county will have a $1.4 million plan that will sit on the shelf and not be implemented.

Birrell, who represents northwest Cobb, did not return a phone call as of press time Wednesday but said after casting her opposing vote Tuesday she couldn’t justify the cost.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Craig Kootsillas
August 15, 2013
The AA was concluded long ago.

Bring it forward now.

Baaak Baaaak
jesse james
August 15, 2013
Has anyone on the County staff taken the time to add up how much has been spent on studies so the grant champ/DOT director can be a big shot promising future transportation improvements?

And to show for them we have what?

Madam Goreham, I think the voters did know what was at stake in TPLost. We do not need to pay for a Marta Train thru north Atlanta to Cumberland and a trolley around the Atlanta Belt Line.
August 15, 2013
Helen, you just earned my work against you in the next campaign.

Your perspective that the T-SPLOST failure was because more people needed to be reached with a "deeper conversation" is an indication you've bought into Timmy-Faye's lies.

These multimillion dollar studies WILL sit on the shelf. BUT, they help keep the federal funding/crack coming in. That's only smart in the eyes of people like Timmy-Faye.
here u go lee
August 15, 2013
Here is the opinion of Cobb residents, for free:

"We are very concerned with making sure everyone knows how important we are, and the way we do that is by driving a car that makes us think other people believe we are important (regardless of their actual thoughts or lack thereof about you and your self importance). If we use your bus or train, nobody will think we are important, because the local media (supported by ads from car dealers) reports that public transit is for poor people only and also causes crime wherever it goes. We do not want anything other than more lanes and more roads filled with more cars, and then so that we may feel even more important, you will need to keep adding more lanes for us because we are too important to sit in our cars for more than two hours daily showing everyone how important we are. We are scared to death of the petty crime supposedly brought by public transit, but we will gladly sacrifice a youth every few weeks so we can drive our cars everywhere because we are important and its worth the sacrifices. We do not understand how much cars really cost us and never will understand because we do not think in terms of annualization or opportunity cost and cannot calculate compound interest and do not realize that a $600 a month car lease could have become over $100,000 of retirement money instead. So give us more lanes and we will fill them with more cars. Then if we do not die in a car crash some day we will turn 67 and go "WHOOPS"
Guido Sarducci
August 15, 2013
For free, huh? Well, unfortunately it is way overpriced even at that.
August 15, 2013
The group CCCC Cobb County Civic Collation has put forth many good ideas on transportation Ron Sifen has sent many hours and days on this. If Timmy and Helen wanted the real public input than put on a debate at 100 Cherokee Street and let Eric Erickson moderate the debate. The problem with Ron’s ideas they to cost effective and that don’t fit with wasting money on light rail with heavy cost. This money was to be used against us to inductance the public on light rail. Jan Barton, Brett Bittner and many others has all offered valid viewpoints; but that the problem is they are valid it’s about phony surveys and spinning the results. Remember TSPLOST public meetings they were very easy to attend they started at two P.M. so if you’re a non-working liberal you could attend if you’re working for a living it cost you big money to attend if you could get off.
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