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ARC launches Wireside Chat series in Henry

Neighboring Clayton County session set for Thursday

Efforts to educate the public about proposed transportation endeavors in the Atlanta, and Southern Crescent region, got underway in Henry County.

Henry residents participated Monday in a Wireside Chat event, sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). The hour-long Wireside Chats are telephone town-hall meetings, designed to inform residents about a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST), set for a vote July 31.

“Over the course of the hour, we had 2,205 [participants] in Henry County,” said Grace Trimble, communications coordinator for the ARC. She said Henry County was well represented on the first night of Wireside Chats in the region.

“We were very pleased that there was that much interest in the referendum in Henry County, and that people would take the time that they did to find out about the projects on the list,” said Trimble. “Questions covered a broad range of topics, from how long the tax will last, to specifics about some of the 157 projects on the referendum list,” Trimble continued. “A number of Henry County callers wanted to know what the plans are for [state] Highway 155.”

The T-SPLOST referendum advocates a 1-cent sales tax to fund $6.14 billion in road projects over 10 years, for a 10-county area that includes Henry and Clayton counties. A 21-member regional roundtable, made up of county and city leaders, unanimously approved the projects list on Oct. 13, 2011.

“The projects are what the projects are, and they can’t be changed,” said Trimble. “But, citizens just don’t have the information they need to decide whether this works for them. The Wireside Chats ... are really an effort to educate and inform residents about the projects on the list that are in their communities, that will affect their daily travel or commute.”

Trimble said audio footage from Monday’s Wireside Chat in Henry can be heard at www.metroatlantatransportationvote.com.

Henry County’s Director of Planning and Zoning, Cheri Hobson-Matthews, fielded questions from residents during the Wireside Chat, along with Bob White, Executive Director of the Henry County Development Authority. Hobson-Matthews said callers inquired about the project list, discretionary funding, and the county’s return on investment for the T-SPLOST.

“A lot of individuals appeared to have an understanding regarding the referendum, and were more concerned about where improvements were planned,” Hobson-Matthews said. “A survey was conducted while we were on the call, and 63 percent of the callers responded that the wireside chats were very useful.”

Registration is ongoing for a Wireside Chat in Clayton County, which is scheduled for June 14, at 7:30 p.m.

“There’s been a lot of interest in the Wireside Chats. Once one part of the region finds out about what’s happening in another, they may become interested in finding out more about the projects where they live,” said Trimble.

Each Wireside Chat lasts for one hour, and allow participants to ask questions directly of local officials, according to Trimble.

“If a question is not answered during the call, the caller may request to receive a response via e-mail following the call,” she said.

Participants who register in advance at www.metroatlantatransportationvote.com will receive a map they can use to view the locations of projects discussed on the call. Those who do not register can still take part in the chats by calling 1 (877) 229-8493 and entering 19878# when asked for the passcode. All maps are on the website.”

Additional Wireside Chats are scheduled, through June 14, in Douglas, Fayette, Cobb, Gwinnett, Rockdale, Cherokee, DeKalb and Fulton counties. For more information, visit www.metroatlantatransportationvote.com.