Buckhead elected officials are asking their constituents to weigh in on the list of infrastructure projects to be financed through a proposed city bond issue. They say they want to make sure Buckhead will get its fair share of the work.
“The list is not hardened yet,” City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean told members of the Chastain Park Civic Association on Sept. 22. “If you don’t like the list [when it’s done] and we don’t get the bond, we’ll just have to do this all over again.”
City officials are considering asking voters on March 17 to approve a $250 million bond issue to start work on an estimated $1 billion backlog in needed infrastructure repairs and improvements such as bridge replacements, street paving and new sidewalks. City Council is scheduled to vote Dec. 1 on whether to put the proposed bond issue on the ballot.
The proposed work “does not represent new things. This represents the stuff that’s broken,” city Deputy Chief Operating Officer Tom Weyandt said during a public discussion of the bond plan held Sept. 30 at Shepherd Spinal Center.
Weyandt said city officials now contemplate bonds that would take 15 to 20 years to repay.
The bonds would be financed by cost savings from the city budget or new revenues, such as property taxes on new construction and the sale of surplus city assets, the city says. “The pledge from the mayor and me is this thing is going to happen with no new taxes,” Adrean told about 30 members of the Chastain association.
But some Buckhead officials are publicly questioning whether the list of projects as now proposed fairly represents their community.
City Councilman Howard Shook told members of the board of the Buckhead Community Improvement District on Sept. 23 that if the money were divided equally among council districts, each should receive about $20 million in projects paid for through the bonds; only “$2 million, plus or minus” in projects were slated for his district.
And that could change, he said, as negotiations continue on which projects to finance. The list of proposed projects, he said, includes about $350 million in projects. That will have to be cut by $100 million before the bonds are issued.
“For Buckhead’s share to be increased, [other] city council members are going to lose stuff that’s now on the list,” Shook said.
Shook said Buckhead residents need to let city officials know which projects they want included.
“There are a number of intersections that need to be fixed,” Shook said. “I think Roswell Road is a big, fat mess.”
But he said Buckhead residents didn’t have a list of projects ready to present. “We can all call the mayor,” he said, “but we don’t know what we’re going to say.”
BCID chairman David Allman said Buckhead residents should “get meaningfully engaged” in the debate over the projects list. “We’ve got to rally Buckhead and get our fair share or be left completely behind,” Allman said.
Shook said he had other concerns about the proposed bond issue. One, he said, was to make sure that the bonds fund long-term projects and not short-term improvements that would have be replaced before the bonds were repaid.
“I’m against a 30-year note to pay for projects that have a 10-year lifespan,” he said. “That’s going to be a deal breaker for me.”
Adrean said she felt the same way. “The last thing you want to do is pay for something over 30 years and have it be out of use in 15,” she told the Chastain Park association members. “We definitely need to watch the use of the funds.”