This past week, there were three examples illustrating the incompetency of the Hall County commissioners. My hope is this presentation of those examples serves as grievances to which citizens of Hall County use in determining not only the commissioners' capacity for leadership, but the intent of this county to expect better: A better government, with fiscal displace as its core value.
First is the Glades Reservoir permitting process. An agreement was reached between the commissioners and the Corps of Engineers to proceeding on the project. The corps charged $300,000 for services. This agreement was altered, then broken.
The commission now justifies paying an engineering firm, AECOM, $1.5 million. That's a $1 million increase. Chairman Tom Oliver remarked, "This is a better system than we had before."
Complicating matters, this is a no-bid agreement. So much for a conservative competition-driven process. Further complicating issues, AECOM may not be a proper third party, having worked on plans involving the reservoir project in the past. Furthermore, the county is already paying a monthly retainer of $65,000 to a project consultant.
Now, the Liberty Mutual Building debacle. Six months ago, when taxpayers filled commission meetings expressing displeasure with spending priorities, the building was to be sold. Oliver said he knew a buyer.
Things have changed. The reason given for this change is a lower cost of renovation. How much lower? One-third of $8.5 million. Commissioners think the county can afford this; $90,000 for architectural drawings and $20,000 for "meetings" is the cost thus far.
The Atlanta-based Sizemore group, the firm berated months ago for being so expensive, will still get the job. Commissioner Ashley Bell said of the firm, "I thought they should have been fired," but now concedes, "it may cost us more to change horses."
While most Americans are trying to do more with less, our commissioners are perpetuating bad business practices and investing more money into not-needed ventures.
The inadequacy to govern logically is also demonstrated in the Cool Springs Park project. Commissioners are poised to authorize $1.9 million for its construction. The problem is that's $400,000 over the amount of SPLOST funding available; $400,000 must be added from the budget to reach the amount allocated.
Commissioner Craig Lutz no longer sees operational cost, also unfunded, as an obstacle. He voted for additional funding.
Six months ago, our commissioners used threats of fewer police for safety and fewer ambulances for the afflicted, to balance the budget on the backs of county employees. Today, county employees work with no retirement and severely reduced salaries (furloughs).
I believe that it is unreasonable to assume that this will change. I believe more strongly that our county can do better.