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Residents object to Chair Lee’s BRT plan at SPLOST meeting

ounty District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, foreground left, chats with Ron Sifen, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, and Tricia Clements, the coalition’s secretary, while citizens fill the East Cobb Senior Center community room Wednesday night to participate in a meeting regarding a possible 2016 SPLOST. Birrell organized the meeting, along with county department heads, to explain projects on the SPLOST list and receive public comment. Staff/Jeff Stanton

 

County Chairman Tim Lee’s bus rapid transit proposal was on the minds of a number of residents who turned out for a meeting hosted by Commissioner JoAnn Birrell on Wednesday.

The meeting was intended to inform voters about projects that may be funded by a potential 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax.

About 100 people attended the event at the East Cobb Senior Center off Sandy Plains Road.

Birrell was quizzed by Ron Sifen of Vinings, president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition, and Tricia Clements, the group’s secretary.

Sifen mentioned Lee’s announcement he had moved a $100 million earmark for bus rapid transit from the “Tier 1” SPLOST list to “Tier 2,” meaning the project would only be funded if tax collections exceed projections.

The initial draft list included a $100 million line item for Lee’s proposed half billion BRT project. The amount was revised to $78 million before Lee moved the BRT down to “Tier 2,” where the earmark for the transit line now stands at $72.5 million, according to county spokesman Robert Quigley.

Sifen said he predicted Lee would make this decision because the existing SPLOST, which expires in December 2015, is exceeding projections.

“This SPLOST is going to collect close to $100 million more than the $750 million that they’re claiming it’s going to raise,” Sifen said.

He suggested Lee knows it, too, which is why Lee moved his BRT proposal into the Tier 2 list.

“All of a sudden, the $100 million magically appears for Tier 2,” Sifen said.

Jim Pehrson, the county’s finance director, estimates a six-year SPLOST would collect $750 million. Pehrson said he based his projections on existing conditions, not on the new $672 million Atlanta Braves stadium and accompanying $400 million mixed-use development that plan to open in 2017.

“We’re conservative with our estimates,” Pehrson said on why he left the development out.

Sifen said he didn’t realize the Braves development wasn’t included in the $750 million SPLOST projection.

“I didn’t even include that,” Sifen said. “So you could easily be adding another $20 or $30 million on top of what we’ve already got.”

Clements, a resident of Birrell’s northeast Cobb district, also emphasized the existing SPLOST collecting more than originally projected.

“And the way things are going right now, it’s looking like this new 2016 SPLOST is going to also collect more than what they project,” she said. “Before they put this to a vote before the public they need to tell us what they’re going to do with that overage. Otherwise who knows where it’s going to go?”

Another resident in attendance was Jan Barton of east Cobb, a retired project manager for IBM, who also takes a dim view of the surplus a new SPLOST would bring in.

“As revenues go up, as home values increase, they’re going to have a slush fund for all their cronies, and you’re not going to know what’s happening,” Barton said.

Birrell made it clear she does not support Lee including the BRT line item on the SPLOST list, regardless of what tier he puts it in. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the list July 22.

“I do not think BRT should be on this list,” Birrell said, noting she planned to speak with Lee about removing it.

Lee was not in attendance.

“I would support the SPLOST list without BRT, and there’s some other things I want to adjust, too,” Birrell said.

Birrell: No ‘set policy’ for surplus

Birrell addressed concerns over what to do if SPLOST revenues come in over projections.

“Unfortunately or fortunately, we’ve never had the problem with SPLOST before of it overreaching the anticipated projections, so we don’t have a set policy in place on how it would be distributed other than once Tier 1 has been issued and there’s money left over then it would automatically go to Tier 2, but how those are prioritized or distributed by district or by department or whatever I think the commissioners would have to decide and vote on that,” Birrell said. “We don’t have anything in place for the 2011 SPLOST and it’s already over projections.”

Carol Brown, president of Canton Road Neighbors, said she attended the meeting to learn more about the proposed projects to determine whether she will support the tax, which would go before voters in November.

“I recognize that many of the projects are needed by the county, and I want to take my time to review the list, and I will make my decision a little bit later on,” Brown said.

Brown shared her thoughts on Lee’s BRT proposal.

“I think because so many of the people that are the most politically active in Cobb are opposed to it, it should probably not be on the list,” Brown said.

And yet, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for some form of transit along the Cobb Parkway corridor, she said.

Judy Renault, who is retired from Lucent Technologies, Inc. and lives in Birrell’s district, said she initially attended the meeting convinced she would vote against the proposed SPLOST.

“I’m tired of taxes being raised, and I was looking forward to SPLOST going away in 2015 and lowering our taxes back down,” Renault said.

Yet after talking with county staff about what projects would be paid for, she changed her mind.

“They knew so much; they knew the budgets. T hey knew how it was all appropriated, so now I trust my county government again,” Renault said.

Even so, she is still not a fan of Lee’s BRT proposal.

“I don’t think that’s going to solve our problems,” Renault said. “It’s sort of like when everybody wanted light rail, light rail, light rail. Well, we don’t have the ridership to make it pay for itself, so the way they’re doing this one, my gut told me this isn’t going to solve our problems. We need to rethink this.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, July 10, 2014. Click HERE for the original article.)

Proposed SPLOST project lists now available

Draft lists of projects for the proposed 2016 Special Local Option Sales Tax are now available online atwww.cobbSPLOST2016.org. These are not final lists and are expected to change with public input.

Public hearings for the SPLOST will be held at 7 pmJuly 22, at the Board of Commissioners meeting room, second floor, 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta.

The public is also invited to upcoming informational meetings on the proposed 2016 SPLOST. During the meetings, people can view project lists and converse with county staff  about the various projects being considered for SPLOST funding. Participants may also provide their input.

  • District Four
    7-9 p.m., Thursday, July 10
    South Cobb Community Center, 620 Lions Club Drive SW, Mableton
  • District Two
    7-9 p.m., Monday, July 14
    East Cobb Library, 4880 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
  • District One
    7-9 p.m., Wednesday, July 16
    West Cobb Senior Center, 4915 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs
  • Countywide 
    10 a.m.-noon, Thursday, July 17 
    BOC Room, second floor, 100 Cherokee St., Marietta

There will be no formal presentations, so participants may drop in anytime during the allotted hours.

 

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Attend informational meetings this week on proposed SPLOST

The public is invited to upcoming informational meetings on the proposed 2016 Special Local Option Sales Tax. During the meetings, people can view project lists and converse with county staff  about the various projects being considered for SPLOST funding. Participants may also provide their input.

  • District Three
    7-9 p.m., Wednesday, July 9 
    East Cobb Senior Center, 3332 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta
  • District Four
    7-9 p.m., Thursday, July 10
    South Cobb Community Center, 620 Lions Club Drive SW, Mableton
  • District Two
    7-9 p.m., Monday, July 14
    East Cobb Library, 4880 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
  • District One
    7-9 p.m., Wednesday, July 16
    West Cobb Senior Center, 4915 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs
  • Countywide 
    10 a.m.-noon, Thursday, July 17 
    BOC Room, second floor, 100 Cherokee St., Marietta

There will be no formal presentations, so participants may drop in anytime during the allotted hours.

Public hearings for the SPLOST will be held at 9 a.m.July 8, and 7 p.m.July 22, at the Board of Commissioners meeting room, second floor, 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta.

For more information, go to www.cobbSPLOST2016.org.

 

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Advance Voting now available for General Primary Runoff

Advance Voting for the July 22 General Primary Runoff is available 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Mondays-Fridays, June 30-July 18 at the Elections Main Office, 736 Whitlock Ave., Marietta. Four satellite voting locations will be available July 14-18. All registered voters may participate in the runoff, regardless of whether they participated in the primary. For more information, including sample ballots, visit cobbelections.org or call 770-528-2581.

 

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Braves stadium and BOC update

In an ongoing effort to keep the public well informed about details of the Atlanta Braves move to Cobb, county staff continually updates a central Web site with a wealth of information, including frequently asked questions, financial projections, zoning documents and a construction management timeline. To view a video of the latest update presented to the Board of Commissioners at its June 24 meeting, please click here. To visit the Web site, click here or visit cobbcounty.org and click on the “Braves” tab.

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Chance to Vote in Runoff Elections is Now

7.31.12

Early voting started on June 30 at the Cobb County Elections and Voter Registration’s Office, 736 Whitlock Avenue in Marietta. Residents can cast ballots from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, July 3 at the office. No voting will take place on Friday, July 4, as the office will be closed for Independence Day.

Early voting will continue from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 7-11 and July 14-18 at the Cobb elections office. During the week of July 14-18, four satellite voting locations will be available. The East Cobb satellite voting location is at the East Cobb Government Services Center, 4400 Lower Roswell Rd., Marietta/East Cobb 30068.

No voting will take place on Monday, July 21 and all county voting precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 22.

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Acworth Business Association & Cobb Chamber to Host a Candidate Forum on July 8

Cobb citizens and media are invited to attend a moderated candidate forum featuring candidates in the runoff election on July 22. Voters will be able to ask questions and hear each candidate address issues that relate to our community.

Participants will be:

  • Acworth Board of Alderman, Post 3: Brett North & C. Kevin Wigington
  • Cobb County Commission District 1: Bill Byrne & Bob Weatherford
  • Cobb County Superior Court Judge: Ann Harris & Judge Juanita Stedman
  • United States House of Representative District 11: Bob Barr & Barry Loudermilk

 A moderated candidate’s forum featuring the run-off candidates from Cobb’s primary elections will be held on Tuesday, July 8. Pete Combs of WSB Radio will serve as the moderator. Doors open at 6 pm; Forum begins at 6:30 pm. Event will be held at  Northstar Chuch, True North Building, 3413 Blue Springs Road NW, Kennesaw, GA 30144.

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Cobb County Government celebrates July 4

County facilities will be closed for the Independence Day holiday. Make plans to attend the Marietta Freedom Parade on Friday, July 4. What a fun way to celebrate! TV23 will broadcast the parade starting at 10:30 a.m.  Watch via live stream here

Watch replays of the parade on TV23 on the following days:
July 4 - 2 p.m.6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
July 5 - 2 p.m. 
July 6 - 2 p.m. 
For more details visit www.cobbcounty.org/TV23

 

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Residents asked to take Park Bond survey

Some Cobb residents are planning to start an effort to request a Park Bond for November 2014 be put on the ballot. To take the quick two question anonymous survey about this effort, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/988STPV?

Many current and future building projects are planned for Cobb County, including the new Braves Stadium, so Cobb citizens want to preserve enough parkland / green space for the growing population to enjoy.

As many residents in Cobb County know, the 2006 Park Bond for $40 million successfully protected 400 acres.  Then, the 2008 Park Bond for $40 million passed with overwhelming support but was never used to purchase parks, and some of the land slated to be saved has already been developed or is currently under the threat of development.

The 2014 Park Bond would give us another opportunity to protect Cobb County from over-development as well as positively affect resident’s quality of life, home values and the environment.

 

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Watch the State School Superintendent Debate, question by question

GOP Republican

The Cobb Republican Party has distributed an abbreviated format of last week’s debate between the State School Superintendent candidates. Click HERE to choose specific questions asked during the debate and hear the candidates’ answers.

Be an informed voter when you go to the polls on July 22.
(Source: Joe Dendy, chairman, Cobb Republican Party)

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