ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Early voting is underway in Alpharetta where two candidates are vying for the Post 6 seat on the City Council currently held by Dan Merkel.
In addition to the one contested council race, voters also will decide two ballot questions related to the local homestead exemption.
Alpharetta voters will be asked if the basic homestead exemption should be increased to $45,000 and the income cap for seniors be removed so that all homeowners aged 65 and above can qualify for an additional $25,000 in savings.
Mayor Jim Gilvin and City Council members Jason Binder and John Hipes drew no challengers.
Candidates for the Post 6 seat were asked questions specifically addressing issues facing the city. Candidate Abu Bakkar Ngila Jalloh did not respond to the questions.
Here is a list of the questions, and how the other Post 6 candidates responded:
1. Some transportation projects, funded through the 2016 bond and the transportation sales tax, are stalled because construction costs have soared way beyond original estimates when the projects were proposed. How can we get these projects on track?
2. What is one issue you think the city has not spent as much time addressing, but that you’d like to see placed on the front burner as a priority?
3. Alpharetta’s downtown allows for office, retail and residential occupying the same space. Can vehicle traffic cohabit with pedestrian traffic? What can be done to improve both?
1. As evidenced by the Rucker Road project, some contractors make extensive use of subcontractors. Subcontractors need to make their profits, so the overall cost of the project goes up. We should also try bidding out a group of projects as one, which would give contractors greater economy of scale and could lower the overall costs enabling the city to lock in lower prices for future work. The city should also ensure impact fees cover the costs of mitigating the impact of development on the city’s infrastructure.
2. The thing voters tell me most is that they feel the city only gives lip service to the will of the people and does whatever it wants. For example, the city will have open house events to gather public feedback on things like park designs. Yet park designs are never changed to reflect the feedback.
The same goes with narrowing vehicle travel lanes and putting in sidewalks wider than the vehicle lanes. People don’t want the narrower lanes (10 feet vs. current 12-14 feet) and they question the justification for 12-foot sidewalks, but the city ignores this and in many cases hides these unwelcome changes until it is too late for the public to react.
The current City Council will only follow the will of the public if enough people attend a council meeting where a particular item is being voted on. There needs to be better representation of what people actually want.
3. Both vehicle and pedestrian traffic can coexist in downtown Alpharetta, with some adjustments. Traffic flow is adversely affected by signals not properly synchronized and by allowing pedestrian crossing signals, such as the mid-block signal on Main Street, to stop traffic and mess up the synchronization. We need a series of pedestrian bridges and overpasses in downtown that allow pedestrians to cross streets without impacting traffic. Also needed are fences/barricades that keep pedestrians on the sidewalks. We need to remove the on-street parking from Main Street, Milton Avenue and Academy Street, so drivers can safely move through those areas without distraction. Las Vegas has done this on the Strip area and managed to separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic while maintaining the look and feel of the area.
1. We are reprioritizing the transportation projects. Currently, we have the new projects grouped into tiers, with tier one being the most critical. The City Council with the help of our public works department are evaluating which projects can move forward the fastest in order to expedite as many projects as possible. Additionally, we are also looking at which projects we can start simultaneously, which will help reduce mobilization charges and allow bulk buying of materials.
2. Over the past few years, we’ve focused on Avalon and City Center. Going forward, I want to see us focus more on the North Point Mall overlay district. We took a big first step earlier this year with phase one of the mall’s redevelopment. There’s still more work to be done in getting the entire district updated so the corridor doesn’t fall into decay with blighted strip centers.
3. We’re currently working to address several aspects regarding improvements in pedestrian safety in the downtown district. First, we are exploring ways to ensure the town green has better safety for the citizens who are enjoying spending time in it. We’re looking to build a low wall across the street side and adding park benches. Also, we will be adding marked pedestrian cross walks near the new parking deck and will continue to educate the public on cross walk options.
The addition of the median and street side parking has drastically slowed traffic down as they come into and out of the downtown stretch. Many of these issues we’ve worked on have had success so far, with much of the credit going to our excellent public works and engineering staff in bringing these innovate solutions forward.