If the Jeff Davis County Commissioners feel like they were thrown under the bus by the Hazlehurst City Council I can understand why.
Here’s what the commissioners had to say in a statement released in response to public statements made by members of the Hazlehurst City Council at its September meeting:
“After reading a recap of the City Council meeting on Sept. 20, we believe it necessary to address some of the statements made in that meeting concerning the Board of Commissioners’ stance on joining with the City Council to construct a State Patrol facility.
“The Mayor and the City Councilmen attended the Aug. 14 Board of Commissioners’ meeting and asked the Board of Commissioners if they would vote that night to agree to allow the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners to go to the bank with Mayor Stone and take out a $500,000 line of credit to build a Georgia State Patrol Post.
“Several Commissioners asked very specific questions about the project. The most important being what would be the total cost of the project. The Commissioners were informed by the Mayor that the cost of the land, a 3,000 square foot facility, landscaping, parking lot, acceleration lane and a deceleration lane would not exceed $500,000. However, neither the Mayor nor any of the Councilmen were able to produce any documentation that would support that assertion. In fact, at the time of the meeting the Mayor was still negotiating the purchase of the property where the facility would be located.
“The Board of Commissioners never stated that they were not going to participate with the City on the project. Instead the Board asked for specific documentation on the project so they could determine if the project would be in the best interests of the citizens of Jeff Davis County. They also asked that Chairman Wooten and Administrator Keith Carter meet with the Mayor the next day to gather the information and to take it back to the Commissioners. That meeting did take place but the Mayor did not have any financial documentation to present to the County. The Mayor did share the plans for the State Patrol Post which grew from a 3,000 square foot facility to a 6,000 square foot facility.
“Although the Board of Commissioners is always eager to join with the City in projects that benefit all of our citizens, as stewards of the monies of the citizens of Jeff Davis County, the Board of Commissioners believes that it is in the best interest of Jeff Davis County to review all information available about a project before just voting to join in because the City has asked.
“To date, the Board of Commissioners has not received any documentation on the project from the City, however, the Board did contact our own engineering firm and was informed that the estimate of the cost of the project including the construction of the building, the land, infrastructure, the acceleration lane and the deceleration lane would greatly exceed the City’s estimate of $600,000.00.”
The State Patrol Post in Hart County, the success of which prompted the City Council to seek a post here, was built under much different circumstances. According to a newspaper article in The Hartwell Sun, the post was built on land already owned by the Hart County Board of Commissioners in an industrial park and the state is leasing the property from Hart County. Hart County paid about $140,000 to purchase materials and State prisoners built it at no cost.
Additionally, the post is located on I-85 with hundreds of thousands of motorists passing through the post’s coverage area every day so it is little wonder that the $140,000 could be recouped in a short period of time.
Rumors have been circulating around here that when troopers make a case anywhere in the 5-county area covered by the post, the host county gets a percentage of the fine costs. That’s simply not true.
And another rumor has been circulating that if a trooper makes a case in Jeff Davis County but outside the city limits, that case can be handled in Hazlehurst Municipal Court and the city would receive the fine proceeds. That, too, is simply not true.
The only increased revenue the city will receive is on trooper tickets inside the City of Hazlehurst above and beyond those that they are already making.
I’m in favor of bringing a State Patrol Post here because of the increased law enforcement presence and the improved safety of our community. But the decision to proceed needs to be based on facts and many facts are not clear at this time.