County Administrator Steve Rapson attempted to clear up what he felt were misunderstandings on the part of the public over whether or not the county is withholding nearly $1 million from Fayetteville because the city didn’t agree to a consolidation of its fire services with those of the county.
It’s been a month since the proposed consolidation of the two services was defeated and there have been complaints that, as a result, Fayetteville might not be seeing the automatic fired aid that had been standard practice within the county, nor would it get over $900,000 in funding that would be put towards realigning the intersection of Hood Avenue at State Route 92.
The city secured approximately $7.78 million in county SPLOST money from a previous commission in 2010. It was proposed that, if the consolidation did go through, the county could offer additional SPLOST funding of approximately $1 million in exchange for about $1 million in city fire impact fees.
County commission chairman Steve Brown, at last week’s meeting, said the county was trying to strike “as fair a deal as possible” between the two entities and this move would have added further to the balance.
“There’s been a lot of debate over whether Hood Avenue’s construction was somehow interlinked to the fire consolidation,” said county administrator Steve Rapson at the same meeting. “I just want to walk through that timeline to explain what occurred.
“We were asked on behalf of Fayetteville to conduct the analysis for the fire consolidation. In the very final hours of that consolidation discussion, when we were just getting ready to meet with the elected officials to show them our analysis, one of the things that came up was that there was $1 million in fire impact fees that were set aside for the city’s fire services.”
Without a fire department to expend the funds on, the city was facing legal ramifications because they had reserved the money for “fire-related” expenditures. To balance the problem out Brown offered to exchange the SPLOST funding for the impact fees.
“Hood Avenue was actually one of the original SPLOST projects that the voters approved. However, in December 2010, the previous administration entered into an IGA (intergovernmental agreement) with the city of Fayetteville to increase those funds by approximately $6 million. And they entered into an IGA for just shy of $7.8 million. That IGA clearly delineates any additional cost for Hood Avenue to be Fayetteville’s cost overrun,” Rapson said.
“On January 20, 2014, we had a letter from the mayor of Fayetteville requesting we contribute another $952,000, which is probably what was on the chairman’s mind when he offered to swap these figures during consolidation.”
Rapson emphasized that the two projects - consolidation and Hood Avenue - were “never linked as part of the consolidation. It was really just part of a comprehensive look at how we could resolve some of the other issues in the city. Hood Avenue is still one of the projects that staff is evaluating in regard to how we spend our remaining $29 million of SPLOST funds. We have, irregardless of cities, about $168 million of projects still remaining that have not been built. So we’ll be going through that list and looking at Hood Avenue, but there were not formal commitments on Hood Avenue. It was just part of the comprehensive review.”
Reading a portion of the IGA, to clarify what is a county and what is a city responsibility for the projects, Rapson said “the city agrees that itwill complete the entire project that is the subject of this agreement. Should the cost of acquisition of right-of-way, construction materials and labor exceed $7,774,000, the city shall pay for any of these additional costs.”
A letter from Mayor Greg Clifton was sent to the county, requesting $627,000 for right-of-way acquisition and another $25,000 for construction.
“We’re abiding by the IGA agreement and we just want everybody to be clear about that,” Rapson said.
Brown said, with the fire department proposal, “we didn’t want to leave them hanging in a lurch and if they were going to hand over $1 million in impact fees we wanted to at least try to balance that somehow. We were trying to make the consolidation proposal as fair as we possibly could. And this was why this came about.”