With just days before the November 5 election, Fayette Newspapers posed a series of questions for Peachtree City mayoral candidates. We’re printing their responses for readers to help them decide which box to check on Tuesday. With five candidates running, a December run-off seems inevitable.
The candidates will be listed in no particular order (George Dienhart, Don Haddix, Vanessa Fleisch, Ryan Jolly and Harold Logsdon) and, after the first question, only initials will be used to identify who is responding.
What do you propose to do, in conjunction with the rest of the council members, to help promote economic development in Peachtree City?
George Dienhart: I have always supported helping our existing industries and businesses expand. This is an easy way to grow new jobs. I also proposed a Tax Allocation District in the industrial park. That district would be a great incentive to lure new businesses on difficult sites. I definitely would not add another traffic signal on Highway 54 West which would cause significant traffic congestion and detract business.
Don Haddix: Restore and enhance DAPC (director plus seven professional volunteers) to work on redevelopment of our industrial, residential, office and other areas of the city in decline. The FCDA does none of these tasks. The $75,000 sent to the FCDA to fund one person only, under the FCDA priorities and goals, does not maximize return. Instruct the CVB to fulfill State Law by promoting conventions, our existing businesses, Airport, events, etc. Also, per Law, to use funds to extend, etc, path connections to enhance these promotions. City Hall and elected cannot do these functions, that is why Authorities exist.
Vanessa Fleisch: The work that I initiated with the Fayette County Development Authority in hiring a full time staff person to work on Peachtree City’s behalf is an important element to our future success in economic development. Another initiative that I was happy to have brought forward was the Peachtree City Jobs and Investment Grant which can be used by our existing industries, or to help recruit new industry. When Sany was thinking of bringing its Research and Development facility to PTC, it was my idea to include incentives from our airport in the package as a way to expose Sany to the convenience of using our facility. Creativity and new ways of thinking are hallmarks of my record on council.
Ryan Jolly: First and foremost show we as a governing body of Peachtree City can work together like Adults, second work harder with FCDA to promote the city as a place to live - work - play
Harold Logsdon: We must work with the Fayette County Development Authority to help bring the best available businesses to Peachtree City. Our City Council and our community must provide an environment that makes Peachtree City an attractive place to locate and one that allows current business an opportunity to thrive and grow.
What are your proposed resolutions for the traffic problem on the city’s western boundary?
GD: We have to insure that we don't make it worse by adding massive grocery stores, additional curb cuts and an additional traffic light as some are proposing. Next we need an actual partnership with GDOT that will call on them to fix the road. Ms. Fleisch supported adding another traffic signal and Mr. Logsdon has conveniently avoided talking about adding the traffic signal. Finishing MacDuff Parkway has stalled because of a bad developer deal made by the previous administration. Additionally, the developers cannot get the financing to finish it, For Mr. Logsdon’s proposal to work, it would take either a massive increase to the millage rate or millions of dollars of debt. Ms. Fleisch and Mr. Logsdon are more apt to make the deals with the developers that worsen traffic.
DH: Per the 2008/09 study the 54 Corridor lights were synced in 2009. The GDOT proposed split grade 54/74 intersection would destroy three shopping centers. Completing MacDuff Pkwy. is via a development agreement, at no cost to Peachtree City. Widening 54 would destroy a lot of buildings, etc. In 2017/18 the 2020 Transportation Plan study begins, at 80 percent Federal Funding. We
need to find solutions outside of Peachtree City. GDOT called my plan to connect Fischer Road to I-85 a way to divert a lot of Coweta traffic from 74/54 and 74/85 and probably to be done after 74/85 is finished.
VF: Over the summer months I looked at the long standing issue of traffic along 54. I realized that this was an issue that involved more than just the border along 54 to Coweta County. The backups begin along 54 at Flat Creek Trail and go to the border of Coweta County. A letter was sent to GDOT asking for their help with a traffic study along that route. As a result of this inquiry, the DOT and the City have met to discuss the traffic issues. In the spring, the DOT will install a Traffic Responsive Synchronization System along the 54 corridor. This may help with some of our issues, but the DOT is quick to point out that a traffic study is necessary to work out any sort of long term solution. The DOT is working with our staff to define the scope of the study which will also include MacDuff Parkway. Unfortunately, most of the arguments surrounding the 54 corridor issue have been based upon opinion and emotion. By doing a traffic study, we have a chance to see what, if any, long term solutions there are for this area. I am very pleased with the relationships that I have developed with the DOT over the past four years. I’m sure this close relationship and cooperation with the DOT will continue should I be elected Mayor of Peachtree City.
RJ: No more stop lights. Business that wish to buy and build on property on Hwy. 74/54 do so at their own peril. Work more in depth with GDOT to resolve issue including a look at a bypass bridge to get through area with limited to no traffic lights (over under bridge)
HL: The traffic problem on Hwy. 54 West cannot be solved by Peachtree City alone; we must have help from Georgia Department of Transportation. We can help mitigate the problem somewhat with the completion of the extension of McDuff Parkway. This should be done, as agreed to by the owners of the annexed land in that area, with no expense to the taxpayers of Peachtree City.
How will you go about maintaining accord among council members, without the vitriol that has been a pattern at too many meetings of late?
GD: As a councilman, I proved that I am able to build relationships with anyone. I am the only one running for mayor who has built relationships with the county commissioners and other local municipalities. I also have a good working
relationship with Councilman Imker as well as the council candidates in the other
races. Mr. Logsdon and Mayor Haddix engaged in suing each other over meaningless things which really amounted to nothing more than clashing egos. Neither Mr. Logsdon nor Mayor Haddix have an acceptable record of playing nice while in office.It is time for something different.
DH: I have the power to enforce decorum on citizens but not Councilmembers unless two support my rulings. The majority believes a three-vote controls everything, which the City Attorney has advised them it does not. Our 54 year-old Charter needs updating. A Code of Conduct and well defined powers and duties of the Mayor, City Manager and Councilmembers are musts. I already instructed the City Manager to begin gathering data for this update. Each elected should know the Charter and respect each others office. No more Councils with Council.
VF: Without a doubt, Peachtree City Council meetings have had more than their share of drama. Over the past four years I have chosen not to engage in the theatrics and grandstanding that has become a part of the council meetings. While other Mayoral Candidates have raised their voices and walked out of meetings I have retained my professionalism during the most rancorous of meetings. It is something that has given me credibility with the city staff and others who know that they can work with me. I have done a tremendous amount of work for the City that has not garnered a lot of attention, and that is again, because I have the credibility and professionalism that the other candidates do not have. Because I have this reputation of putting the City first, it will give me a chance to develop working relationships with the new members of council.
RJ: As with anything you must be able to work with others, value other people’s opinions and listen to all sides when making decisions. Make decisions best for the city.
HL: This is done through mutual respect of fellow council members. Often there will be disagreements. When this happens, one must continue to go about the affairs of the city and not attack fellow council members in public through Letters to the Editor, blogs, etc.
How do you feel about a Director of Public Safety, as opposed to the current method of having a Chief of Police and Fire Department Chief?
GD: We have lost an overwhelming amount of taxpayer funds by settling numerous lawsuit in the Police and Fire Departments. It’s obvious that something has to
change. We need to restructuring the Police and Fire Departments and set higher
expectations. A Public Safety Director can reduce costs and better coordinate
between the two departments. A study by the University of Michigan's Jeremy
Wilson and Cliff Grammich (“Police Consolidation, Regionalization, and Shared
Service”) stated that potential increases in efficiency, promotion of community
policing, and enhancement of community safety can all be achieved under the new model. This is an idea worth exploring.
DH:While open to persuasion, but having done research, to date I do not see it as beneficial or cost savings. It has been said 130 governments have a PSD. With well over 19,000 cities, alone, that is not an impressive number. Small town sometimes have a combined force because they cannot afford 2 departments. Large cities and counties who have such also have Chiefs of Police and Fire Chief as well.
VF: There have been issues with both the Police and Fire Departments, but I do think that we are moving in the right direction in both departments. We have two very good, award winning, departments that serve our City admirably. To radically change the structure at this point in time would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Some candidates believe very strongly in their positions based upon their opinions and little else. I try with every decision I make, to do the research necessary to come up with an answer; even if the answer ultimately goes contrary to my original opinion. A few months ago we retained a firm to analyze both the police and fire departments. This firm has been asked whether or not a Public Safety Director would benefit Peachtree City. I will reserve a final answer until I see what their analysis shows.
RJ: Our city is not large enough to justify a Director of Public Safety. Cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, and New york are examples of cities that justify such a position. Also, we will end up spending more on salaries because of this.
HL: First, we must see the report from the consulting company that has been tasked to look at Public Safety in Peachtree City. However, not seeing the report, my personal opinion is that adding another layer of management into a bureaucracy seldom adds efficiency.
Are you in favor of the currently proposed Core Infrastructure Local Option Sales Tax? Why? If not, why not? If the SPLOST doesn’t pass, how do you propose to handle paying for the repairs and maintenance on the city’s golf cart paths and streets?
GD: Our budget for road and cart path maintenance is so low, I have to support it. Councilman Imker presented projections showing it will raise the money we need to do this maintenance, with the lowest financial impact to citizens of the city. The 2009 SPLOST proposal from the Logsdon administration was a boondoggle and it was crushed by a 3 to 1 margin. There has been a lot of change over with elected officials since 2009 and the Core Infrastructure SPLOST is much better in that it repairs our current infrastructure without creating a lot of new expensive projects.
DH: The SPLOST is an attempt to justify not dealing with our current Budget issues.
At $200 for the average household per year at least $6 million in projects will be unfunded plus another $3 million added to the list in five years. Coweta reported sales tax revenues are already falling below projections. The 2005 SPLOST never reached projections. There are already more taxes and debt planned via the current approach to services and financing. We need a Comprehensive Strategic Plan to establish where we are now to know how to move forward.
VF: Our current budget for road and cart path maintenance is $1.5 million a year. This is not an option, maintaining this infrastructure is vitally necessary for our City. Should the SPLOST fail, which I believe it will, then we will need leaders who will step up and do what is necessary to fund these projects even if it is politically unpopular. In the past we have had leaders who neglected our facilities, and as a result the City has had to spend money over the past two years just to get them in a state of good repair. There is much work still to do be done and we need to have a Mayor that doesn’t shy away from making difficult decisions.
RJ: I am against any type of SPLOST. SPLOSTS are short term fixes for long term problems. There are many other areas of our budget that need to be addressed. Our road and path infrastructure should have always been budgeted in our yearly operations budget. Since the last SPLOST we passed for road and path maintenance our city leaders never worked to add this item to our budget.
HL: The streets and cart paths must be maintained. There is some money budgeted each year for this purpose; however, it is not enough to cover all needs. To cover these needs we must do one of three things: 1) a property tax increase, 2) issue bonds, or 3) a SPLOST. A property tax increase will cost each property owner about $400 per year, a bond issuance will cost the tax payers about $600 per year, and a SPLOST will cost the average family about $250 per year. To me, the math answers the question.
By any standard, Peachtree City’s residents are a graying community, as young people leave the community after receiving an excellent education in the county’s school system. What do you propose to bring back the youth to our community?
GD: Creating good paying jobs and keeping the quality of life is essential. Single twenty-somethings are a tuff draw for us, but once they get married and have children they will come if we have jobs available for them. We are seeing many of the next generation returning to the city once they start a family.
DH: The answer is obvious. We have the rec, safety, cart paths, green, etc. Without good paying jobs and having to commute, they will not stay or move here. While the FCDA does a good job on looking for big companies, we have no one to look for the medium to small good paying jobs. We don't have anyone pursuing redevelopment either. DAPC was doing these missions. Pull back the $75,000 going to the FCDA, hire our own Director (maybe Emily) and recruit the 7 professional volunteers for the board. Eight people here can do more than one in Fayetteville.
VF: One of the goals of my work with the Convention and Visitors Bureaus and the local hotels is to bring quality sports tournaments and events to the City. These events would hopefully be a draw for younger families to fall in love with Peachtree City and stay. Fixing our recreational facilities is key to this initiative so that our children would want to come back here to raise their children. One of my underlining goals for the tournament initiative was to have young families come here to see what we have to offer. This initiative took longer to get moving than was expected due to the poor condition and neglect of our recreational amenities by past councils. We are on the right track now and I have been pleased with the results thus far.
RJ: The biggest thing young people want in a city are family friendly night time activities for kids and teens. Our recreation department is great, but is not responsible for his type of activity. We should invite other companies to bring business that can fit within this framework.
HL: Economic development that produces skilled jobs will help to bring young families back to Peachtree City. We must maintain the excellent quality of life and our above average school system. This combined with quality jobs will help bring young professionals and families to Peachtree City.
Where do you see Peachtree City’s growth path going in the future? What will it need to be a self-sufficient community with growth potential and vitality?
GD: The city still has the best quality of life in the state. Our main problem is we have suffered under a leadership vacuum for the past eight years. There’s an easy fix for that. Our redevelopment potential is huge because we can attract high value residents. Our retail commercial is strong and our industry is expanding. The main thing missing for the past eight years is a mayor who can get along with the county and the cities and keep moving the city forward. We aren’t doomed for failure, but to prevent it we need to elect someone who can point to success.
DH: If we stay on our current course of being dependent on taxes and debt, only the very wealthy can live here. Our growth rate has been flat and will continue to be flat because we rank last in Class B cities tax affordability. If we move to the path of local jobs, we can be self-sufficient. Fewer commuters means more money spent locally which means more sales tax, etc. It means a better demographics so all age groups benefit financially and in human resources. We can have the best quality of life and be able to afford it as well.
VF: I have had the honor of serving this City during one of the worst economies that this country has seen since the great depression. My goal has been to position the City so that when the economy turns around that we can come out of it stronger instead of weaker. We need to be more self-sufficient and one way to do that is to make sure that maintenance no longer becomes an “optional” part of our budget. Because of the neglect by past mayors and councils, this council has had to step up and do the major maintenance necessary to keep our facilities usable. It is my opinion that the work we did on City facilities helped to keep our home values more stable than they would have been otherwise. Home values depend a lot upon how the City takes care of itself. We faced that challenge when I came into office four years ago. The average age of a home in Peachtree City is 22 years. Our neighborhoods are aging and there are neighborhoods that need more work than others. There are a limited number of things that the City can do to help. The City needs to maintain itself so that homeowners will feel confident enough to invest in their own homes.
RJ: With the new Pinewood Studios I see great opportunity to showcase our city to new business that will surely follow. Growth will be determined with job opportunities and activities for our kids/teen
HL: Peachtree City is virtually at build-out while communities around us are growing. Our planned community has served us well; however, it is time look at our boundaries to see if growth potential would fit into our community. Annexation just for the sake of annexation is not the answer. Any growth must be in keeping with the standards that have made Peachtree City great.
What do you see is Peachtree City’s single biggest problem and what do you recommend to help fix the problem?
GD: The traffic at Hwys 54 and 74 will hurt us. I adamantly disagree with Ms. Fleisch wanting another traffic signal on 54-West. This is the one major point Mayor Haddix and I agree on. Traffic backs up to City Hall in the evening. Mr. Logsdon had a chance to do something about it and he looked the other way. Mayor Haddix won't find an answer- he can’t get along. Mr. Logsdon did things as mayor that a lot of people did not like such as attempting the TDK blvd extension. Ms. Fleisch has shown a strong tendency to do whatever the developers want. I will provide “citizen-centered” leadership to get things moving again. We can work with the state without icking up the whole tab as Ms. Fleisch has suggested.
DH: Our lack a Comprehensive Strategic Plan is a disaster. We have to streamline our services to what are actually wanted, prioritize them, get off of trying to fund all via debt and taxes and set caps, etc. We need to get jobs in here to generate the revenues to fund the Plan. That cannot happen without a Plan based on citizen input and exploring all available options, including more public/private, as I proposed and achieved at the Tennis Center.
We need elected who serve the citizens, not themselves or special interest groups.
VF: Budgetary issues and how we pay for infrastructure maintenance and repairs are at the top of the list. One of the ways to do help is to find new revenue streams. I am very proud of the work done with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the hotels to bring in events. This will create another consistent revenue stream for the City.
RJ: Our biggest problem is the perception we give the people around us about our government. (currently most do not respect or think highly of our city government due to infighting of our council and mayor) Show our city leaders can work together, be honest, and that we are working hard for our city. As city leaders we should be honest, and respectful of others, don't lie, when you mis-speak admit your mistake and correct the record. If you don't know the answer, say so. Don't just make up a answers.
HL: The voters I have talked to tell me that the biggest problem has been the lack of civility on this council and the lack of a cohesive council. This can be corrected with respect for fellow council members and by putting any differences aside and conducting the affairs of the city in a civil and mutually respective manner.