A couple of weeks ago I raised an issue regarding the politics playing out between the DeKalb County School System & the DeKalb County Government about improving an intersection in front of a new middle school that has been under construction for several years. The intersection needs to be reworked to a four way stop & several light poles need to be moved prior to a large parking lot on the school property being allowed to open. Without this happening all 1,000 students must now enter & exit through a dangerously congested back side street which also serves a DeKalb Fire Station. It is a very bad situation which affects not only the Peachtree Charter Middle School, but also the neighboring Chesnut Charter Elementary and the safety of all the citizens served by the Fire Station.
Since I figured one little blog entry wasn't enough, I sent an e-mail to nine various Atlanta & DeKalb County news organizations making them aware of the situation and copied every school & County government representative I could find hoping to end this silly stalemate.
Ms. Pat Pope, Chief Operations Officer for the DeKalb County School System replied that she was not pointing fingers but it is the County's responsibility to improve the intersection, yet the County is asking that the School System to pay for the road improvement. In a separate e-mail from the DeKalb Traffic Department, the school system stated they couldn't pay more then $50,000 to improve the intersection and now they wanted the road design changed to meet the money available. I'm not sure that throwing out the properly engineered plans of a major intersection which feeds onto I-285, just to save a few dollars, is a wise long term investment? I have asked for the final engineered drawings of the intersection so that I can post them on-line but have yet to hear back from anyone.
Below is the history of the e-mails sent & received on the subject, documenting if nothing else, the fact that the coordination between these two governmental bodies are a joke. I really hope the intersection doesn't turn out the same way!
From: Dunwoody North Civic Association [mailto:John@dunwoodynorth.org]
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 9:50 PM
To: Various Major Atlanta & DeKalb News Outlets
Cc: 'Swink, Kristie N.'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'Gannon, Kathie'; 'Boyer, Elaine'; 'McBride, Nancy J.'; 'email@example.com'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'email@example.com'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'Jones, Bernadette R.'; 'Kimbrough, Ann L.'; 'ANGELIQUE E. CONNER'; 'Chesnut School'; 'email@example.com'; and many interested parents
Subject: Why are DeKalb County & the School Board pointing fingers at each other over an intersection improvement?
Dear news organizations,
There seems to be a stalemate on an intersection improvement project needed for Peachtree Charter Middle School in Dunwoody and I was wondering if someone could please look into this situation. I have been informed that neither the County nor the School System are taking responsibility for completing this final aspect of construction and it is affecting an entire neighborhood, passing traffic, two schools and the safety of more then 1,000 children. The intersection of North Peachtree Road & Kings Point Drive needs to be reconfigured and a four-way traffic light installed for the parking lot to be opened.
Copied on this e-mail are most of the people responsible (either directly or indirectly) for some aspect of the project, maybe someone can let the community know exactly when we could expect this situation to be rectified? For the DeKalb County School Board there is the Director of Construction Operations, Pat Pope, Board Member, Jim Redovian, PCMS Principle Steve Donahue and many interested parents. For DeKalb County there are Commissioners Kathie Gannon & Elaine Boyer, Public Information Officer Kristie Swink, Chief of Staff, Ann Kimbrough and various other DeKalb Transportation e-mail addresses found on the internet.
We would like to see some movement on this project because it causes an unsafe atmosphere around the schools. If you would like to see the problems caused by not having this parking lot open, I invite you to please come out some afternoon to see it for yourself.
For the good of the community, I thank you for making inquiries on this subject.
John Heneghan, President
Dunwoody North Civic Association
From: PAT A. POPE [mailto:PAT_A_POPE@fc.dekalb.k12.ga.us]From: Dunwoody North Civic Association [mailto:John@dunwoodynorth.org]
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2007 12:56 PM
To: Dunwoody North Civic Association
CC: Various Major Atlanta & DeKalb News Outlets, all of the DeKalb officials as well as the parents.
Subject: Re: Why are DeKalb County & the School Board pointing fingers at each other over
Thank you for your concern. However, no one is "pointing fingers". The statue is clear, the county is responsible for county road improvements. The Department of Transportation is responsible for state road improvements. The county has not performed the work and has asked the school system to pay for it.
We are paying for the work under strong objections. As you can imagine, we will never get reimbursed. We are paying because we want to get this project completed as soon as possible to help lessen the impact on our parents and students.
Mr. Heneghan, I don't agree with your approach; but, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. The team is working hard and aggressively to complete the project. The only thing I ask is that you allow us to do so.
Patricia A. Pope
Chief Operations Officer
DeKalb County School System
1780 Montreal Road
Tucker, Georgia 30084
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 2:58 PM
To: 'PAT A. POPE'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'
Cc: Various Major Atlanta & DeKalb News Outlets; all of the DeKalb officials as well as the parents.
Subject: RE: Why are DeKalb County & the School Board pointing fingers at each other over
Thank you Ms. Pope for your response; I’m glad your not pointing fingers otherwise we wouldn’t know exactly where you stand on the matter.
As a taxpayer, I am disgusted by what I read below. As a future PCMS parent, I am grateful the school system is willing to spend the out-of-budget $50,000 to get the project finished. But I am very angry at DeKalb County that you are being forced to doing so. The PCMS construction project has been going for over two years and yet the discussion of the reconfiguration of the light is only now taking place. Surely both parties are at fault for the lack of communication and planning that should have taken place starting two years ago. “The county has not performed the work and has asked the school system to pay for it.” Why? It has been in the plans since the construction project was first conceived. Why does the school system have to pay for this project? As a taxpayer and a parent, I would prefer that those tax dollars be spent on instruction, the core business of the school system. I pay other tax dollars for roads – where is that money?
Below is a message, forwarded from Elaine Boyer’s assistant Nancy McBride, which shows that the plans provided to the community back in 2005 may now be changing the right of way in order to save money. Community meetings were held showing acceleration and deceleration lanes as well as a northbound, left turn lane on N. Peachtree Rd entering PCMS. When the final plans for the intersection are available, I would like the Public Works Department to send me a pdf version of the plan so that I can post the document to my neighborhood website & blog.
Ms. Pope, I appreciate the fact that your team is working hard to aggressively complete the project, but the only thing I now ask is that design shortcuts aren’t taken on this intersection project which will negatively affect the community for many years to come.
From: McBride, Nancy J.
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 7:14 AM
To: Dunwoody North Civic Association
Subject: RE: Why are DeKalb County & the School Board pointing fingers at each other over an intersection improvement?
According to Ted Rhinehart, Director of Public Works for the county:
“John Gurbal, Director of Transportation, is working with the School District’s project managers; the way they wanted the signal designed, to avoid their having to dedicate some right-of-way, was more costly than they expected; When Traffic Engineering sent them the estimate, they asked if it could be reduced; so we’re trying to work on the cost estimate to get it within their budget (under $50,000). I think John and the project manager have worked that out, and then our construction crew can schedule the work.”
Hopefully, things will come together soon.
For Commissioner Boyer