The June 23, 2011 Board of Commissioners meeting will long be remembered as the most well-attended meeting in a very long time. Every seat was taken and people had to stand in the back of the room. But before you get too impressed, that crowd of people from all over the county ended up leaving disheartened and aggravated once again.
Commissioner Steve Brown did a magnificent job of explaining to everyone about the severe budget crisis the county faces. Chairman Herb Frady described Brown’s careful evaluation as “gloom and doom.” In spite of Frady’s less than constructive comments, not a single person, including Chairman Frady, Commissioner Lee Hearn or Commissioner Robert Horgan, disputed Brown’s assessment of the budget or his numbers.
Commissioner Brown alleged the previous Board of Commissioners (including Jack Smith and Eric Maxwell) were given the falling revenue projections for fiscal year 2011 from staff in advance but the board still allowed the county’s Fire Fund to “collapse into red ink.” Commissioner Horgan admitted the point was true, but tried to change the subject.
Commissioner Brown also said the changes in the brand new fiscal year 2012 budget would do the same thing to the Emergency Medical Services Fund. No one challenged Brown on that one either.
There was also a discussion on how certain funds were being underfunded over the past several years. Apparently, no vehicles or equipment have been budgeted for several purchase cycles, causing a “backlog of 60 vehicles for FY 2012 and 38 vehicles for FY 2013” and we don’t have the money to cover it.
The county finance person said a new program for vehicle purchases was in the works. Commissioner Brown asked several times how the county would cover the costs and he never got a straight answer.
None of the three holdover commissioners disputed the list of essential budget items Commissioner Brown read aloud that can’t be funded. In fact, no one fought Brown’s claim that the county was engaged in “deficit budgeting.”
Person after person from the audience walked up to the podium to speak in favor of using House Bill 240 proposed by Commissioner Brown and Commissioner Allen McCarty. The new law from the state legislature gives local governments the ability to have the voters decide on converting Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds to use for paying debt and issuing tax breaks to property owners.
As you probably guessed, Chairman Frady, Commissioner Horgan and Commissioner Hearn refused to give the local taxpayers the opportunity to vote in a referendum and didn’t give them the ability to use the SPLOST funds earmarked for the worthless West Fayetteville Bypass and other projects to help stabilize their budget fiasco.
At least three members of the audience maintained there had to be some sort of corruption for the three holdover commissioners to keep defending the bypass no one wants while they let their budget fiasco continue to deteriorate. Of course, we already know Commissioner Hearn’s relatives own close to 110 acres of land near the West Fayetteville Bypass route.
In making his motion, Commissioner Brown went to great lengths to compromise with the three holdover commissioners by saying he would support the purchase of right of way for the West Fayetteville Bypass if they would only allow the voters to use the rest of the funds to save the shaky budget.
Not only did the three holdovers refuse, but they also couldn’t give any justification for not saving their budget or offer any reason why we should continue on with the construction of the bypass.
Needless to say, everyone in the packed auditorium was furious.
What it amounts to is Chairman Frady, Commissioner Horgan and Commissioner Hearn would rather serve the developer special interest than help their constituents.
I’m not so sure the three holdovers consider us as their constituents. Remember these are the same guys who appoint their relatives to key government positions, hold convictions on drug charges, conduct illegal meetings and beat back opposing views at meetings.
The fact they wouldn’t let the taxpayers have the opportunity to vote in a referendum to decide how to use THEIR tax dollars is proof to me that the holdovers’ motives aren’t pure.
We can’t go on having our elected officials totally ignore us. Something has got to change!