SPLOST wish list questioned
by Jon Gillooly
June 18, 2014 04:00 AM | 4113 views | 13 13 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bob Ott
Bob Ott
Chairman Tim Lee, above, said the marketing initiative will be financed through state and local funding, with some money coming from the county’s general fund. 'They are also looking for grant money,' Lee said.
Chairman Tim Lee, above, said the marketing initiative will be financed through state and local funding, with some money coming from the county’s general fund. 'They are also looking for grant money,' Lee said.
MARIETTA — Commissioner Bob Ott says residents should not pay almost $108 million for new facilities for Cobb first responders or $100 million for a bus rapid transit line if voters pass a new 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax in November.

Commissioners were given a master list of projects totaling more than $1 billion from county departments this week and asked to prioritize which they wanted to see included in a six-year SPLOST, estimated to collect $750 million.

Voters may decide on whether to extend the SPLOST in November.

Rebranding the BRT?

Ott wants to strike the $100 million line item for a proposed bus rapid transit line connecting Kennesaw State University with Midtown Atlanta. Bus rapid transit is not mentioned in the description of the line item, submitted by the Cobb Department of Transportation. Rather, it’s called a “high capacity multi-modal transit along Cobb Parkway.”

The description goes on to describe how it would allow for “improved access/mobility for existing businesses and future business growth.”

Ott has publicly opposed including an earmark for bus rapid transit in the SPLOST list, as have commissioners Lisa Cupid and Helen Goreham.

“It appears to me that they’re rebranding it so people don’t realize it’s BRT,” Ott said. “And that doesn’t change in my mind that this is not what SPLOST should be used for, and I still have objections to BRT or CCT enhancements if it has anything to do with the fixed

guideway coming down 41.”

But Commission Chairman Tim Lee wants to see the earmark included.

“I really believe in the project,” Lee said. “It’s just a matter of talking to the commissioners and the mayors on Friday and seeing if they agree and going from there.”

Ott: New public safety buildings won’t solve officer complaints

Ott also balked at two proposals submitted by the county’s public safety department.

One is a $55 million line item to build a new headquarters and evidence storage room for the Cobb Police Department. The existing police headquarters is on North Marietta Parkway near the Square. The other expense is $52.9 million for a new training facility for police and firefighters. The existing training facility is on County Services Parkway.

It’s no secret a number of Cobb police officers have been unhappy with how their department has been managed as outlined in the resignation letter of the county’s last public safety director, Jack Forsythe.

“A new police headquarters and a new training facility do nothing to address what the surveys from our officers have said,” Ott said. “They have concerns about pay. They have concerns about the vehicles. We have need for another precinct. It doesn’t solve what we’ve been told all along by the public safety officials, which is manpower and getting police officers and patrol cars on the streets.”

Ott estimates that once the SPLOST funds are divided between the county and six cities, the county would have about $500 million from a new SPLOST. Spending $100 million of that on BRT and another $100 million on a new police headquarters and training facility, leaves the county with $300 million to accomplish all the projects needed across the county, he said.

“In order to address public safety concerns, we need to be listening to what the officers are trying to tell us,” Ott said.

Lee acknowledged that the “rank and file” may prefer to see the money spent on something other than a new police headquarters and training facility.

“But the police chief and Sam (Heaton) as the director of public safety, they have a responsibility for the whole department, which includes training,” Lee said. “I can see where someone on the street may not think that’s first priority, but it might be a priority for the whole department and that’s why we have leadership.”

Lee said he’s asked the four district commissioners to have their lists ready for Friday’s meeting between the Board of Commissioners and Cobb’s six mayors.

“The goal is for them to bring their recommendations to the meeting Friday morning,” Lee said.

“Staff will compile that list over the weekend, and we’ll see where we are next Monday in terms of having a project list that will list where the commissioners agree.”

Heaton: New headquarters would free up space for other departments

Heaton said the idea for the new police headquarters comes from the existing headquarters being overcrowded with other departments such as the Emergency Management Agency, the evidence storage facility and the 911 center.

By building a new police headquarters, possibly on County Services Road, the existing building would be used for the expansion of the other departments in the building such as the 911 center.

Also, several of the county’s police units are scattered across the county.

“By having a new headquarters, we would be able to bring command and control together under one building,” Heaton said.

The county’s training facility was built in 1992 at a time when the county had about 800 people working for police and fire.

“Today we’re getting close to 1,500,” Heaton said. “We’re just busting at the seams.”

Heaton said one of the earmarks in the proposed wish list is $9 million for the purchase of additional cars.

As for salaries, those come from the general fund and can’t be paid with SPLOST dollars, he said.

Heaton said in the 2005 SPLOST, public safety received about 3.27 percent of the total revenues. In the 2011 SPLOST, it received 2.62 percent.

“And in both of those, PD was very minimum, so I would just like to be able to see us pick up some of the places we missed,” he said.

If commissioners and the mayors give their consent, Lee said the Board of Commissioners will take a July 22 vote on a resolution to place the SPLOST before voters in a November 4 referendum.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Mike H
June 18, 2014
Bob Ott lost his reputation as a fiscal conservative when he gave $400 million (and counting)to the Atlanta Braves.

Picking at the SPLOST won't get his integrity back.
Just Wait
June 18, 2014
I agree that public safety probably needs a new training facility. Training needs to be top notch and with past and future growth in PD and FD, a modern and larger facility is in order. However, a new headquarters is something that can wait. They need to stop thinking about the "chiefs" and worry about the "indians." The rank and file need cars. Now. Whether it is just adding to the fleet or enough to issue take home cars, that needs to be addressed now. That would free up some funds to provide raises that are badly needed. Helmets, rifles and cars and great, but the officers can't eat them. Maybe if they would get some of the management out of the office and on the road where the help is needed, they could cure their space problems.
June 19, 2014
Not that I don't agree with some of your comments, but the management needs to get out on the street where the help is needed is silly. I guess the CEO of Home Depot needs to go stock some shelves instead of running the company....that would work well.
Cobb Cynic
June 18, 2014
"Public Transportation"(sic)is a perpetual money pit and the taxpayers never seen a return, let alone a break even point in the investment. Whiny Socialist and R.I.N.O., special interest bag-men like Lee need to keep their hands out of our damn pockets!! I'm not interested in being forced to subsidizing anyone, its hard enough to keep me and mine in food, clothing and housing...
June 18, 2014
First of all, Cumberland guy, a BRT that goes to downtown will not help anyone. I worked downtown for 40 years and the last 4 years in Perimeter. Once you go past 285 there is no traffic problem past that going south on 75. So that will not help 75 from Kennesaw to Downtown one dang bit. I would like to see the Splost spent on road and safety improvements. No more 6 foot wide sidewalks beside woods like on 41 at Barrett Pkwy. Fix Stillsboro Rd. You go from 2 lanes to 4 lanes and back to two lanes then back to 4 lanes. Do it 4 lanes all the way. Widen, with the state help, 41 with a middle island. Get rid of the suicide lanes. Also 4 lane Chastain all the way. 6 lane Sandy Plains road. Do some good with all this 500Mil.
From Kennesaw
June 18, 2014
I agree totally with commissioner Ott. He always seem to right answer. KSU down to Atlanta? With at most 5 people in the wagon?

B R T = Bummer Resolution Tax for nothing usefull for Cobb county residents. There are rails all over Cobb county, tell the State we want them back.
Ben Twomey
June 18, 2014
To Cumberland guy, and ott is gumby. Ijatm bioys, you ahev written your letters. Now, bow down before the Chmaber of Commerce and kiss the ring of Timmy Lee and you can get your reward.
Journalism 10
June 18, 2014
Can you please share a web link where readers can see the full list of proposed SPLOST projects? Thank you!
WiseandPowerful Lee
June 18, 2014
So the Cobb County Police Officers want take home cars, so you give them new buildings instead... Makes sense?????
Cumberland Guy
June 18, 2014
So what is Mr. Ott's message - traffic on US41, South Cobb, I75, Atlanta Road is just fine and can take the Cobb citizens where they have to go in time?

Mr. Ott - are you ever on these streets during commuter times??

Probably not - as you would have first hand experience that obviously Cobb needs better - MUCH better transportation!

And that transportation is mass transit - so why don't you bring up the real solution ... extend finally MARTA to Cobb county!

A real solution for the real world in Cobb & Atlanta and with SPLOST money not a big problem ... What's wrong??
June 18, 2014
Wow - you have to be kidding, not a bus, not a BRT but a "high capacity multi-modal transit along Cobb Parkway" thingamajig

Did the Chamber come up with this new term....a HCMMT instead of a BRT system. Be real Mr. Chairman, we are not that stupid. Stop this Chamber fantasy of a BRT down 41 or the SPLOST is DEAD, DEAD I tell you ....and we need this SPLOST for good in the County, not wasted an a HCMMT system fantasy.......the SPLOST with BRT will go down in defeat worse than the T-SPLOST. Don't you guys ever learn? Helen if you flop and vote for this your legacy will go down the drain
ott is a gumby
June 18, 2014
Ott does not believe sales tax dollars collected from the public at the cash register should be used for public transportation? Well then what on God's green earth SHOULD pay for public transportation?

Ott seems to want to steal from the poor and give to the rich: Collect taxes at the cash register everyone goes to, and use their money to pave the way for private motor vehicles operated by people who want to look rich driving around in their latest greatest car, displaying how they are "too good" for public transit.

Ott, if you want money to pave the way for private motor coaches, collect a "roads fee" exclusively at the gas pump that sells the fuel to the owner/operators of these high speed wheelchair deathtraps people speed around in.

What's that, you say? Electric cars and fuel "efficiency" are making it impossible to collect enough money at the gas pump for maintaining and expanding roads?

That is an easy one. Look at the odometer readings on the annual vehicle inspections and assess a "roads fee" based on miles driven and weight of the private vehicle.

Ott is either clueless himself or must be lying about BRT. US 41 will hold light rail for the Braves stadium, and that is why they aren't using the word "bus" anymore. If anything good does come from the baseball shenaigans, it will be this light rail up US 41 that will someday release the prisoners from their rolling solitary confinement cells on I-75 and will virtually do away with the transportation death penalty (look for the roadside teddy bear and flower piles)

Cumberland Guy
June 18, 2014
You're on to the points:

there are plenty of good, reasonable and well thought through technology solutions for a functioning mass transit system.

Same goes for technology to collect money for the necessary road maintenance as you pointed out!

The real barrier: the mind of many of our politicians and their complacency to do their work - just like Mr Ott!
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