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.