Connecting the Dots - Part 2
Is there a common thread between some of the more controversial efforts in Johns Creek? It would appear so - and it becomes apparent as you begin to connect the dots to get the full picture. This is the second in a series. Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 - How did a Vague Project List Become Rigid Project Definitions?
In the run up and promotion of TSPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), Johns Creek’s City Staff developed a list of potential transportation projects. Project descriptions were vaguely described, for example, “Medlock at State Bridge Improvements”. Indeed, these vague descriptions can be found as a PDF document on the city website.
Vague Descriptions Become Rigid Definitions
The city’s website states, “A list of potential projects to be funded by a temporary sales tax on the November ballot was approved by the Johns Creek City Council on Monday, May 23.” At no point prior to the vote on TSPLOST was the City Council provided with any more detail for their review and approval. City Council and residents were repeatedly assured that the project list was not a final definition of projects, and that nothing could move forward without the review and approval of CIty Council.
Promises Made, Promises (NOT) Kept
Subsequent to City Staff’s provision of a list of potential projects, and the Mayor’s repeated and vehement assurances that City Council approval would be required before any project could move forward, City Staff developed more detailed project definitions that were not transparently communicated to residents or City Council.
The sequence of events and subsequent positions communicated have placed Johns Creek in a controversial position. Despite consistent assurances to the contrary, City Council and residents are now told that we must adhere to the more detailed definitions of transportation projects. City Staff, the Mayor, and our City Attorney have taken the position that there can be no discretion or flexibility in the execution of TSPLOST projects. That position is in stark contrast to actions taken by other North Fulton cities (see Part 1 of this series for examples in Roswell, Alpharetta, and Sandy Springs).
Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann States Her Position in Support of Roswell’s TSPLOST Flexibility
Johns Creek and Northeast Fulton County is represented by District 1 Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann. Ms. Hausmann was a member of the inaugural Johns Creek City Council, and she is currently serving her third term on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. She spoke at the Roswell City Council Meeting on September 9, 2019, stating her approval of Roswell’s move to make adjustments to their Big Creek Parkway TSPLOST project. This is further evidence that there is broad acceptance of the position that cities do indeed have flexibility in their execution of TSPLOST projects.
Public Works Exercises Flexibility When it Suits Them
The “New Location Road in Tech Park” is a Tier 1 TSPLOST project on which City Staff has granted itself the flexibility to explore two options. The more detailed TSPLOST project definition (see page 42 or 56) states that the project “will construct a new 2-lane roadway to connect Bell Road to Johns Creek Parkway. This project may include improvements such as sidewalks, trails, and landscaping.”
Public Works Department has posted two Concepts for “New Location Road”. Concept #1 is consistent with the more detailed project definition in that it connects Bell Road with Johns Creek Parkway. Concept #2 is NOT consistent with the more detailed project definition in that it connects Bell Road with Technology Circle. We had previously documented this lack of consistency in a post you can read here.
Who Does Public Works Serve?
Our Public Works Department is operating inconsistently. In one instance, it is exercising discretion and flexibility in its interpretation of a Tier 1 TSPLOST project. In other instances, residents are being told there is NO discretion or flexibility allowed. At the same time, surrounding cities are modifying their TSPLOST projects that were funded under the same mechanism so that they better suit the evolving needs of their community. This behavior begs the question: in who’s interest does our outsourced Public Works Department work? Do they operate in the interest of Johns Creek residents, or are they more motivated by the interests of Jacobs Engineering (formerly CH2M Hill), the private, for-profit company that provides the staff that operates many basic functions of our city, including Public Works?