City gains nothing abandoning Brumbelow negotiations

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In my years covering city councils and county commissions, I have often seen intelligent people engage in decisions that as, Alice once said in Wonderland, are “curiouser and curiouser.”

But few match the way the Johns Creek City Council has dithered over its desire to have a traffic signal installed at the busy intersection of Brumbelow and Nesbit Ferry roads. In a timeline the council produced, it showed the first steps toward that end began in 2009.

Of course the big stumbling block is Nesbit Ferry and three corners of the intersection are in Roswell. Roswell has consistently said it has no interest in a signal there because its residents have not complained about the intersection.

I don’t see Johns Creek sharing the costs with a sister city of a traffic signal on its border that its residents would not profit.

That brings up the issue of traffic warrants according to the Uniform Manual of Traffic Control Devices. The UMTCD sets forth the standards for which a signal is warranted. Now Johns Creek officials, both elected and on staff, say that Roswell will incur liability – a word the city likes to bandy about a lot – if some terrible accident occurs at that intersection due to the lack of a traffic signal.

But despite all their assertions, this simply is not true. The UMTCD is not silent on the matter. It states that a warrant for a signal is not a requirement. So that argument has fallen on deaf ears in Roswell.

Roswell has no interest and nothing to gain by sharing the costs of a signal at Brumbelow. Johns Creek made a half-hearted attempt at negotiating with her sister city. The mayor and Councilman Ivan Figueroa met exactly once with the Roswell mayor and City Councilwoman Betty Price.

That was their only meeting. At the next council workshop, Johns Creek Public Works was asked to make its recommendation. The next meeting, that recommendation came back. Johns Creek should agree to split the cost of the traffic signal and then accept the donation of Nesbit Ferry Road from Roswell – and here’s the kicker – only after Roswell has spent the $600,000 to bring the dilapidated road up to specifications.

This left some observers scratching their heads, because as a negotiation ploy, it held little attraction for Roswell.

Roswell said no, so Johns Creek decided to go it alone on the cost of the signal but with the charge to “get it done as cheaply as possible.”

Now matters have worsened as Roswell issued a stop-work order because it did not like the way Johns Creek was proceeding. Now Roswell wants a memorandum of understanding (MOU) spelling out exactly the manner in which the light will be installed.

This was frustration enough for Johns Creek Council, but the MOU they were requested to enter into spelled out Roswell would control the light and the interval of the signal. They thought this was yet another delaying tactic and were suspicious of making a point of determining the interval at the light.

Although city staff had already refilled its permit request, the Johns Creek Council voted 5-2 to yank the permit request.

In other words, they picked up their marbles and went home in a huff.

So the result is after all the effort expended over the Brumbelow signal, that’s it? A collective “We’ve had it” and move on?

Well that is not good enough for the people who live on Brumbelow and have waited patiently (or perhaps impatiently) all this time. And that is not a luxury an elected body should accord itself.

The time now is for real negotiations with a sit-down between city council representatives on both sides. Roswell Mayor Jere Wood told one reporter that this could all be resolved by such a sit-down between him and Mayor Mike Bodker.

Wood has said the MOU and its clause that says Roswell will control the light and its timing is spelling out an obvious issue that needs spelling out. Since it is a Roswell signal after all on a Roswell street and linked to the other Roswell signals, the MOU is not a belligerent request – belated perhaps, but there you are.

Now Wood has said the MOU is no ultimatum, merely a list of reasonable points his city wants agreement on. There is not much there to get huffy about. What Johns Creek should do – and I do not believe a resident on Brumbelow Road would disagree – would be to have Mayor Mike Bodker sit down and thrash out an agreement which both city councils would ratify.

That is a process that is done all the time. Bodker agrees the issues could be settled amicably and quickly if his council would agree.

So why don’t they? It is hard to say from my seat on the front row, but it is in keeping with a disturbing policy of isolation. The city seems to approach any agreement with its sister cities in North Fulton with a suspicion that is not justified.

Whether it is with Alpharetta over the cross-swearing of deputies or its fee structures for recreation, Johns Creek’s wariness of joining the North Fulton cities to form its own public safety radio net (with no better option available) and now Brumbelow, Johns Creek’s reaction has the appearance of outright hostility – which is in no one’s best interests.

Certainly in this instance over Brumbelow, the council should go one step further. As Councilwoman Kelly Stewart said, there is nothing to be lost by trying one more time when the goal is almost in the city’s grasp and absolutely nothing to be gained by walking away.