Board approves $1.4M contract to update Cobb's transportation plan
by Jon Gillooly
March 03, 2013 12:38 AM | 4229 views | 13 13 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Board of Commissioners approved a $1.4 million contract with ARCADIS last week to develop a five-year update to the county’s “comprehensive transportation plan.”

The recommendation to hire ARCADIS, an engineering and consulting firm, was made by Cobb Department of Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo.

“We have a transportation plan in place, and periodically we’re required to update,” county chairman Tim Lee said. “This is an update, so it’s basically developing an updated roadmap for transportation in Cobb County for the next five years.”

Lee said the plan should take 18 months to finish.

Connections to the county

ARCADIS consultant James Hudgins happens to be a proud campaign supporter of Lee, walking with him during last year’s Marietta Fourth of July Parade sporting a “re-elect Lee” shirt. Hudgins can usually be spotted in the company of Lee or DiMassimo, whether it’s at a recent transportation conference at Southern Polytechnic State University, at Lee’s election party or at a Community Improvement District meeting.

Yet Lee denies Hudgins’ support of his candidacy has any bearing on ARCADIS being awarded the contract. “Absolutely none whatsoever. If you go back and track the system and the process, you’ll see that’s the case.”

In recommending ARCADIS for the job, DiMassimo writes that the cost will be paid with a $1 million federal grant that passes through the Atlanta Regional Commission, $120,000 from the Federal Transit Administration, $59,818 from Cobb cities and $220,181 from the 2011 county special purpose local option sales tax.

MDJ asked DiMassimo if the $1.4 million study was a requirement and, if so, who was requiring it. DiMassimo emailed a response referencing how it makes the county eligible for state and federal funding. She also said the plan is required by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Questions about spending

Georgia Tea Party board member Larry Savage of east Cobb said the transportation study is a good example of the kind of wasteful spending that could easily be eliminated from the federal budget. Yet, he said, politicians in Washington give dire warnings of how disastrous the automatic spending cuts known as “sequestration” will be to the nation. Targeting airports, rather than transportation plans, is a clever way for the federal government to so inconvenience the public that it caves in to paying more taxes, Savage said.

DiMassimo says that conducting the plan “positions the county and its member jurisdictions and community improvement districts (CIDs) to continue to compete effectively for available federal and state dollars, through (the Georgia Department of Transportation and Atlanta Regional Commission).”

What’s interesting, Savage said, is that Tad Leithead chairs both the Cumberland CID board and the Atlanta Regional Commission.

“That’s kind of interesting that these federal grants come through ARC, so we have the Cumberland Improvement District chaired by Tad Leithead applying for grants from the ARC chaired by Tad Leithead,” Savage said. “Now if I am the only person who can see a conflict of interest in that relationship, then it’s a sad day for ethics in this county.”

Representing the region

Leithead denied such a conflict exists, noting the ARC has a strong code of ethics included in its bylaws. To suggest that Leithead as ARC chairman could direct ARC dollars to the Cumberland CID on a whim is inaccurate, he said.

“Remember that the ARC represents 10 counties,” Leithead said. “I’ve been chairman for three and a half years. If I did that once, I would no longer be chairman. That’s a fact. I have to be very balanced in terms of a regional perspective, and all 10 counties develop a transportation plan, and secondly, those decisions are not made at the board level, so there hasn’t even been a vote that I’ve had to recuse myself from.”

Leithead said the Cumberland CID was not involved in the county’s decision to hire ARCADIS.

“We’re not providing funding. We’re a stakeholder,” Leithead said. “We’ll provide information to them at their request to support the Cumberland Community Improvement District’s portion of the transportation plan, but I wasn’t involved in that decision and cannot direct funds in that fashion. That responsibility falls to the elected officials who represent the individual counties, in this case Tim Lee, but those don’t rise to the board level. Those are staff level.”

Savage said there’s a certain way of thinking among government employees when it comes to federally financed projects that federal money “grows on trees evidently or sprouts out of the ground. I am mystified at the need for all this stuff.”

Lee said the multi-million dollar Northwest Corridor studies the county is already conducting would be folded into the $1.4 million ARCADIS plan.

After completing a $1.8 million “Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis” study led by Croy Engineering that recommends spending $1.1 billion on a bus system from Kennesaw State University to Midtown Atlanta, the county launched a $3 million environmental study of the project by Kimley-Horn and Associates, which won’t wrap up for another year and a half.
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I don't fly delta
March 04, 2013
Maybe we could save the money by just letting Ott tell us what needs to be done? I mean, after all, he know everything about transportation cause he Fly's over roads "and stuff"
March 04, 2013
Perennial loser Larry Savage is how low the MDJ now stoops to find a "more lanes and more roads" idjit? Come on MDJ get with the program. The government has no business spending public dollars on hardened surfaces that don't do anything. Public money should go for public transit. PRivate money should pay for roads for the schmucks who want to continue pouring over a $million in a lifetime into cars.
JR in Mableton
March 04, 2013
Congratulations to Mr. Larry Savage for becoming Cobb County's foremost expert on transportation planning and financing. Maybe Mr. Savage would like to consider a position at Cobb DOT.

Could the author of this article please explain what makes a political candidate who can barely garner 5% of the vote qualified to express an opinion regarding the county's transportation planning efforts. There are nearly 3/4 of a million other people you could interview.

Also, could the author of this article share what percentage of Cobb County business in under contract with Arcadis? I think the number will be surprisingly low.

Another hack piece from the MDJ......disappointing!!

RJ in Mableton
March 04, 2013
MDJ would have a good cover story by doing an open records on the SPLOST funds being spent for ARCADIS consultant services in the DOT.

Who approved an ARCADIS Communications Coodinator that bills for $25,000 a month when the DOT is already paying a full time county employee a fraction. SPLOST consulting funds have zero oversight. Grand Jury hint hint
Be Careful
March 04, 2013
One question please.....

We have to hire an outside firm to update our transportation plan????

We have a county department of transportation.

Can they not update the county transportation plan?

If the department of transportation can't update a transportation plan, they all need to be fired.
What a waste or joke
March 03, 2013
$1.8 million on one study and then another $ 3 million on another study and we get what in return> Nothing. Croy hires a bunch of illegals and lines their pockets. Politicians are so corrupt it is astounding! They have been in the "planning" phase for years and we still have nothing but gridlock! Sad people....very sad!
Savage Jon
March 03, 2013
"Hudgins can usually be spotted in the company of Lee or DiMassimo"? Oh, my! How dare someone who works together to be seen speaking to one another in public! Especially at a transportation conference.

Come on, Is this journalism or a gossip column?
Cobb Whiners
March 04, 2013
It's all part of the Agenda 21 conspiracy - citizens speaking with elected officials.......oh my!
truth b told
March 03, 2013
Tim Lee is about as openly crooked as they come.

Don't people see how this game is played?

Lee swooned over DiMasimo , giving her a Cobb County golden goose award last week.

Guess the citizens get the choked chicken award.

Tim Lee is a criminal, helping criminal contractors steal millions from taxpayers, to pay criminals to continue to work on million dollar road projects,.. while sending most of their earnings south , over the border!

Acording to Inter-American Development Bank,in 2009, Latin America receiced 69.2 BILLION in remittances from the U.S.
criminal bloggers
March 04, 2013
Is accusing someone of being a criminal "hate speech" (which is forbidden on this blog, or simply slander?
JR in Mableton
March 04, 2013
Do you have any proof of criminal activity? Or is this just a reckless, irresponsible, baseless accusation??

The MDJ should drop this sort of post.

Papermill gal
March 03, 2013
Larry Savage is the conscience of this county. He does the research, he knows the facts and he cares about how our lives are affected by bureaucrats, lobbyists and "persons of influence" to our elected officials.

What a different place Cobb would be in today had he been elected, rather than Tim Lee.
Craig Kootsillas
March 03, 2013
"Lee said the multi-million dollar Northwest Corridor studies the county is already conducting would be folded into the $1.4 million ARCADIS plan."

When the Cobb Board of Commissioners vote to approve the ARCADIS plan - which actually is called the Comprehensive Transportation Plan and is a very important federal and state-mandated document...

it will be the first time - EVER - that the community will have an opportunity to put their views regarding rail on the public record.

This, in spite of the fact that the rail plan being considered was conceived in 1998 with Tad Leithead and Jim Croy leading the effort.
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