Debra Wathen sees the need for the infrastructure repairs and improvements Atlanta city officials propose to pay for through a $250 million bond.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” she said after a Feb. 3 public meeting to discuss the bond proposal. “I think it is wonderful for the city to catch up with something they’ve left behind. If Atlanta wants to be a great city, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
Wathen was among about 50 residents who attended the meeting at the Atlanta Speech School, the first of the most recent round of discussions about the bonds that city officials have held in Buckhead. Another public meeting is scheduled for the Callaway Auditorium at the Shepherd Spinal Center on Feb. 17.
Voters are scheduled to go to the polls March 17 to vote on whether the city should issue $250 million in bonds to start work on a backlog of infrastructure repairs and improvements such as replacing street lights, rebuilding bridges and synchronizing traffic lights. A part of the bond funds is targeted at repairing city buildings.
“The intent of the bond is to fix broken stuff,” said Richard Mendoza, city public works commissioner.
City officials estimate the total cost of all repairs needed at nearly $1 billion, and say they expect the bonds on the ballot March 17 to be just a start. “This is just the first $250 million of what we consider will be a series of bonds,” Mendoza said.
City officials say the first round of bonds will be financed without a tax increase. Instead, the money will come from cost savings from the city budget and by selling excess city property, such as the recent sale of Underground Atlanta to a developer.
“We have maintenance that’s been postponed,” Buckhead resident Edward Daugherty said. “They’re telling us it will not affect our residential property taxes. That’s certainly welcome news.”
Voters will see two items on the ballot. One calls for $187,945,000 in bonds for construction, reconstruction, renovation and repairs. The second seeks bonds to pay for $64,055,000 to upgrade facilities to meet the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Atlanta City Council also plans to appropriate 3.5 percent of the city’s general fund budget at the beginning of each fiscal year for infrastructure maintenance and improvement.
Some residents questioned whether the projects would be divided fairly among the different areas of the city. In the past, they argued, the northern end of the city has not gotten its
Mendoza said city officials planned to designate about $52 million for local projects in each City Council district. That would provide about $5.4 million for each district, he said. “We will be working with council members individually,” he said.
Residents also questioned whether they would be able to see a full list of the proposed projects before the vote March 17. Mendoza said city officials are working on the list and expect to have it 90 percent to 98 percent complete by the vote. The list can be viewed online at RenewAtlanta2015.com.
The final list is scheduled to be approved by Atlanta City Council in April, city officials said.
After the presentation, Buckhead resident Paul Muldawer said he welcomed the bond.
“We need it,” he said.