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June 4, 2007

ACTION NOT EXCUSES - WHEN?

Remember the 2004 campaign slogan, “Action not Excuses?” That’s all we heard. Things were going to be different. Things were going to be better. Are they?

Instead of doing anything, the BOC passes the buck—no matter what it is – by referring things to the County Manager. Instead of answering questions, the Commissioners refer them to the County Manger. The County Manager will look into it. The County Manager will get back to you. The County Manager will take care of it. The County Manager has real problems following through and completing any assignment even though he makes $82,000 a year. The Commissioners have real problems doing anything, including relating to the citizens that come to them for help and their lack of requiring the County Manager to follow through on any issue.

Here are a few items that have been talked about since the beginning of the current
term of this commission. These items sit in the “Great Abyss” where things linger until they are forgotten about.

1. The County Roadsas recently reported by TWG, certain areas get more attention than others. Incidents like the Felton McMichael Rd. report make citizens realize that the BOC is not engaged in County Business. The buck is passed to the County Manager, whose expertise is talk, not action. http://www.taxdogs.com/road042107.htm

2. The County Website—the county has been paying over a year for a website and its maintenance. It is doubtful that the BOC even knows how much it is costing. There is nothing on the website and it is not utilized. The County Manager told the BOC in February 2006 he would give them prices, etc. for the cost of the website. That never happened and even though TWG has questioned the cost and lack of use, nothing has been done. Supposedly an employee was assigned to work on the website. No action.

Go to the “County website” at www.jaspercountyga.com. Click on Planning & Zoning—it says “Planning and Zoning content goes here.” It is the same with all departments. When is the website going to be done? It’s been like that more than a year. With all the extra time employees seem to have on their hands—1 ½ hour lunches, wedding showers during working hours, coming and leaving whenever, etc.—you would think something could be done. No! Only excuses, no action.

3. The County Charternot long after the current BOC took office, the County Charter was going to be updated. There are needed changes to the Charter such as outdated mileage rates, meeting days and times, etc. All the Commissioners wanted salary increases, but since they had just cut the budget for several departments, the public reacted and nothing was done. Again, no further action, only excuses.

4. The County Personnel Policiesthere are reports of employees working for the county that are rarely at work, are reimbursed for “comp time”—even though we are told there is no such thing-- running businesses on the side, convictions of deposit fraud (bad checks) yet working with the county finances, etc. There is no supervision of personnel from the Commissioners office all the way to Public Works Dept.

For years citizens have talked and heard of gravel, sand, oil, tires, etc. going out the door at Public Works. Several people reported a load of sand being picked up at Feldspar in the county dump truck that was taken to an employee’s house while the county paid for it. Sources have told TWG that county owned air conditioners were sold by a public works employee during the Courthouse renovation. When does it ever stop? Not until someone supervises, puts in rules, and fires people that don’t abide by them. What do we get? No action, only excuses.

5. The County VehiclesCertain employees get to take the county vehicle home, while others are not allowed to. A resolution passed several years ago states that the employees can not take a county vehicle home. A copy was produced at a BOC meeting many months ago. The Commissioners were going to discuss this and have it “on the next agenda.” That was about 6 months ago. It’s never been discussed again. No action, only excuses.

6. County Beer and Wine Licensesa few months back, it was reported that the County Manager issued Lakeview Restaurant a license to sell liquor by the drink. Jasper County ordinances state that only private clubs, such as Turtle Cove, can sell liquor. Yet our County Manager signed off on this license. He could have asked others that have worked for the county for years, but no, he’s the County Manager and either ignorance or pride prevents him from asking about things he doesn’t know. He acted, then gave excuses.

TWG has asked the BOC on more than one occasion to have public hearings when anyone applies for a Beer and Wine license. These hearings used to be standard procedure, along with background checks for the applicant. Citizens had input on where the alcohol would be sold as well as who would be responsible for the sale. The County seems to lack any procedure other than to take someone’s money for the license and sign off on it. Reportedly there are other violations the County Manager has signed off on. Instead of reprimanding the County Manager for such a flagrant violation of the law, it was excuses, no action.

7. Open governmentThis was a big campaign promise that has been reduced to “only doing the minimum” required by law. There have been meetings without the proper (required) postings, including setting of the millage. Comm. Hill didn’t attend the meeting, yet signed the resolution stating he was there. After complaints by citizens, the County Attorney defended the action to the Attorney General’s office and handed the County a $700+ bill to do so. Lots of excuses, minimum action.

8. County FinancesCitizens were promised monthly financials that would be posted outside the BOC offices on the bulletin board. Where are they? They haven’t been presented to the BOC in several months. During January, the CFO presented the BOC financials showing a $3.5 million “surplus” for the 2006 year. He didn’t tell the Commissioners that $3.6 million of that “surplus” was collected on taxes that were for the 2007 county expenditures. We need action and fewer excuses.

9. The 380 Bypassthe former county attorney GAVE the right of way back without getting the money back. There will be legal issues as 380 progresses. The BOC has been reminded about this on a regular basis. Nothing has been done. Only excuses, no action.

It takes all 5 commissioners to get things accomplished. It takes all 5 to work together and do what is best for Jasper County. It takes the BOC to see that the County Manager is doing his job and accomplishing what he has been told to do. That is not and has not happened. The citizens and the county suffers because of it.

There are only about 12 months until new people can qualify for many of the elected offices in this county—including County Commissioners (whose former title was the Commissioners of Roads and Revenues). We need people who CARE about our county. We need people who KNOW something about our county and have lived here long enough to know what is going on and why. We need people who want true accountability and therefore OPEN government. We need people who can remove non-performing employees and replace them with workers that are qualified and willing to work.

All five commission seats will be up for grabs. Citizens need to take an interest and recruit and support qualified candidates. We can do better. We must do better. We need action because we are tired of excuses.

TWG
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