County Council chairman Paul R. Farragut fought unsuccessfully Monday to stop what he called a $1.1 million financial boondoggle -- the connection of North Chatham Road to U.S. 40.
Had Farragut prevailed, it would have been the first time the council had stopped a capitalproject after appropriating money for it.
The fact that $730,000 had been authorized previously and nearly $100,000 already spent was cited by the four other council members asa compelling reason for finishing the $1.1 million project.
When completed, the 600 feet of new roadway north of Chatham Mall will give residents in Brinkleigh Manor, Howard Heights and Woodberry a direct link to U.S. 40.
The connection was a virtual certainty until the county encountered wetlands that forced a change in the scope of the project. Changes call for the road to be separated by a median, andfor construction of culverts and storm water management ponds. Acquisition of rights of way became more expensive.
Altogether, the county would need $410,000 more than budgeted. The administration asked the council to transfer unused money from other capital works to the Chatham Road project.
The request gave opponents one more chance to bury the project. Farragut found their arguments compelling.
"The main problem is the trade-offs we would have to make during this difficult budget time," Farragut said. "Next year we will have 1,500 more students in our schools. This project is 14 percent of the cost ofa new elementary school.
"This project does not solve a traffic problem, it merely rearranges it. Fifty percent of the people benefit,50 percent suffer."
"Certainly we have to balance these things out," said C. Vernon Gray, D-4th. "But we cannot afford to not build these roads."
Gray said some residents have been waiting for the Chatham Road connection for 30 years.
"We voted for this project at least three other times," Gray said. Many people who supported it did not show up at a Feb. 17 hearing to support it again, because "they thought it was a done deal," Gray said.
Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, agreed. "This needs to be done as a safety issue," she said. "Many people were not notified (of the hearing). They believed in good faith this was just a modification."
Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said that not to go forward with the project would be to waste money rather than save it.
Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said he, too, wants the project to go forward.
"We have put it off and put it off. If we wait anothersix, eight, 10 years the cost will double," he said.
The council voted, 4-1, to approve the additional funding.
In other action Monday, the council announced withdrawal of three resolutions from this month's crowded agenda. One called for adoption of a county economic development policy and another called for adoption of a county housing policy. The third endorsed a group home application.
The councilhad already agreed to split its agenda and conduct hearings at 7:30 p.m. March 16 and 17.
In unrelated action, the council decided to return to an 8 p.m. starting time, beginning April 6, to allow council members to spend more time with their families.