Where is everybody? No one shows at Marietta SPLOST public meeting
by Hilary Butschek
July 19, 2014 04:00 AM | 3628 views | 8 8 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ines Embler, who is an assistant for Marietta’s public works department, sits by her lonesome at a table near the entrance to City Hall on Wednesday, waiting for residents to come by and leave a comment in the box, sign in and learn more about proposed SPLOST projects. Unfortunately, not a single citizen showed up at the time allotted for the meeting, which was 4 to 6 p.m. Staff/Jeff Stanton
Ines Embler, who is an assistant for Marietta’s public works department, sits by her lonesome at a table near the entrance to City Hall on Wednesday, waiting for residents to come by and leave a comment in the box, sign in and learn more about proposed SPLOST projects. Unfortunately, not a single citizen showed up at the time allotted for the meeting, which was 4 to 6 p.m. Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Officials from various city departments wait in the lobby at Marietta City Hall for residents to attend a designated meeting to explain proposed SPLOST projects. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Officials from various city departments wait in the lobby at Marietta City Hall for residents to attend a designated meeting to explain proposed SPLOST projects.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — Not one resident turned out to a city meeting this week designed to let residents know how their money would be spent under a new sales tax.

The City Hall meeting was set up to prepare voters to make a decision to approve a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax. The vote for the tax, which would start in 2016, would be Nov. 4 if the Board of Commissioners puts it on the ballot.

The city list totals $57 million and is made up of the projects the City Council wants to see funded by the SPLOST.

City employees waited two hours for residents to come to the meeting Wednesday. When no residents came, staff said the lack of attendees may have been because no one had heard about the meeting or they may have gone to Commissioner Helen Goreham’s SPLOST informational meeting, which took place later Wednesday night.

Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin said he had seen a trend of low attendance at meetings for SPLOSTs in previous years.

“That’s about what I expected,” Tumlin said.

Dan Conn, the city’s public works director, hopes the lack of people at the meeting doesn’t correlate with a lack of supporters for the tax, because he said the city needs the money.

“It takes $2 million each year to keep the roads in the condition they’re in now,” Conn said.

Conn said the city has spent 60 percent of the money it raised so far from the 2011 SPLOST.

The 2011 SPLOST, which spans from January 2012 to the end of 2015, is expected to collect $44.8 million for the city.

Conn said one project that will be appealing to the public is a new $1.2 million trail on Burnt Hickory Road, would connect Whitlock Avenue to the park on Old Mountain Road.

Johnny Walker was the only councilman to visit the meeting. He said he supports the trail project because it will connect to residents in his district.

Walker said he hopes residents see how important the tax is and will vote in favor of it so the city can continued to be maintained.

“If they don’t vote for it, I don’t know what we’ll do,” Walker said.

New fire trucks

The SPLOST list includes $4.5 million for replacement trucks and heart monitors for the fire department. Fire Chief Jackie Gibbs said his department needs the funding because if the department doesn’t get new trucks soon, he’s worried the old ones won’t survive.

“I know that’s important to (the fire department), and I think that it’s also important to the city,” Walker said.

Gibbs said he has a fleet of fire trucks too old and not up to date with new safety measures.

“We are obviously very concerned, because the longer we wait to replace them, the harder it is to keep the fleet moving,” Gibbs said.

The three trucks Gibbs said he wants to replace are more than 12 years old. One of those has 158,000 miles on it and its engine has run for 12,600 hours in its lifetime.

“That’s a hair-raising scenario in this traffic,” Gibbs said.

Each new fire truck costs $500,000, Gibbs said. It has been two years since the department bought a new truck, and his fleet contains six engines total.

“(The fire trucks) are worn out,” Gibbs said.

The heart monitors, which tell medical responders whether a person needs an electric shock when his or her heart has stopped, are 10 years old and cost $30,000 each to replace.

Road improvements

Much of the budget for the 2016 SPLOST would go toward road maintenance projects.

One of those is a $3 million streetscape on Powder Springs Street that would run from the South Marietta Parkway intersection all the way to Chestnut Hill Road. The section of roadway would get a 14-foot-wide median, as well as sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.

Walker said he decided to cut one item from the list of SPLOST projects in his ward.

Walker said residents in his district complained about a suggested roundabout at the intersection of Mountain View Road and Polk Street, so he took it off the list.

The residents didn’t want to ease traffic with a roundabout, because they feared it would make more people want to use Marietta as a cut-through to Atlanta.

“They just don’t want anything that’s going to help get traffic through Marietta,” Walker said.

The roundabout was going to cost $750,000 to construct, Walker said.

One of the biggest projects the city will fund with the SPLOST is a replacement bridge on Old 41 Highway over the Church Street Extension railroad. The current bridge was constructed in 1972.

“(Old 41 Highway) is currently restricted. This will rebuild the bridge,” Conn said.

The new bridge will cost $8 million, and the city and the county will split the cost to pay $4 million each.

Comments
(8)
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Why 6 years ?
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July 19, 2014
The current politicians may all be out of office, and we'll still be paying the tax.

Why not 4 years - why lose our flexibility ?

Why beyond the tenure of the council ?

How about skipping one year ?
More common sense
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July 19, 2014
I believe it says people KNOW we have to have these things to provide for our county, and that we have the best road system around and must keep it up, along with all of the other things we "want and NEED" but don't like to pay for. None of us enjoy taxes but not sure how we think we could govern without them.
Common Sense
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July 19, 2014
Dan Conn, the city’s public works director, "hopes the lack of people at the meeting doesn’t correlate with a lack of supporters for the tax, because he said the city needs the money."

Who supports more taxes? And why are these meetings held during the time when most families are on vacation right before school starts? Maybe this is by design with the illusion that if the government showed up and demanded more money while the citizens didn't show, than it has the green light to rubber stamp the tax and spend more money. While the mileage rate being lowered in Marietta is a good thing, families are always battling the bottom line to make ends meet. Death by a thousand tax cuts is what is not only going to destroy local government, but our country. We are being taxed to death. While I believe in a conservative infrastructure and services, the SPLOST was supposed to be a one time tax. Here we are once again dipping into the citizens pocket to fund a ever growing budget. The Braves are getting a significant tax break, how about the citizens? Never makes sense to me, but again government and common sense is an oxymoron.
Stephen GeorgeJr MPA
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July 19, 2014
When you're public administrator ...nothing happens by accident ...and talk about a prime example of LEARNED HELPLESSNESS.

Watcher...
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July 19, 2014
Very few Taxpayers want to have a lecture from generally faceless bureaucrats telling us how they want to, in many cases, waste our money.
cinsays
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July 19, 2014
Maybe nobody showed up because we all feel we are not listened to anyway. We got the Braves fiasco shoved down our throats by Lee and the others, so we know those in charge are only interested in what will benefit them
Stephen GeorgeJr MPA
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July 19, 2014
it's important to note that at the Town Hall meeting I attended, when I asked Boss Tweed what individuals, groups, or corporate entities has a as of then UNDISCLOSED fiduciary interest in the Braves Stadium deal he was MUTE ...lots of times you can tell more by what the politician doesn't say than what is said ... .
baseballhater
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July 19, 2014
Fiasco?! That is obviously YOUR opinion and you're in the minority. The Braves coming to Cobb County is one of them most positive coups that could've been accomplished and I applaud those who are responsible for making such a good thing happen to us.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
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