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I attended a workshop Thursday evening put on by the Tattnall County Board of Commissioners which was supposed to be a working discussion about the Road Department and the Budget. Though those topics were on the agenda, the discussion was far more telling on a total disregard for public tax dollars, a lack of concern over ethics laws, and a seemingly absent desire to have the meeting in the first place.
Only one gentleman from the public was in attendance. Road Superintendent Kenny Hicks, County Engineer Dennis Odom, another road department employee, Glennville Public Works Director Stan Dansby, and Sheriff Kyle Sapp were all present, as were Probate Judge Gloria Dubberly, Coroner Bobby Brannen, Magistrate Judge Eddie Anderson and Superior Court Clerk Sherri Bland, mostly due to concerns arising from the last Commission meeting where a few commissioners made it known that they would like to further regulate elected Constitutional offices in Tattnall County.
The meeting was called to discuss the future of the road department and offer pros and cons with regard to operating procedures. Should the county continue on with a centralized road department and a road superintendent or should the old system be restored and each Commissioner be granted a budget, equipment, and a crew to fix the roads in their respective districts? I’ll be writing about the soon enough, but in this column, I want to shed some light on the totalitarianism and arrogance that is repeatedly showcased in the Tattnall County Commission room.
1. – It’s clear they would rather be somewhere else.
Before the meeting even started, Chairman Jackie Trim twice made comments about “hurrying up” and “getting out of the meeting.” He made it perfectly clear that he was more concerned with finishing the meeting than listening to people in attendance, rushing people commenting – Commissioners, employees, and residents – and at 6:25 p.m., twenty-five minutes into the meeting, asked if there were any other comments because he had “heard enough.” (More on the full comments below)
The Commissioners already speed through their monthly meetings, which take place on the first Monday of the month at 9:00 a.m. Often times, decisions have been made ahead of time, by phone, or in other discussions, and there usually is not much conversation on topics. To speed through a workshop called for the sole purpose of bringing forth data and concerns while making it obviously he is ready to leave is irresponsible and not very Chairman-like, in my opinion.
2. Opinions and feelings trump hard numbers.
Road Superintendent Kenny Hicks asked Commissioners if they had seen the budget from the last three years which was provided in a packet for the meeting. The numbers illustrated over $200,000 in annual savings since consolidating the road department, including four natural disasters in two fiscal years which took heavy tolls on the roads.
Instead of answering about the budget, the savings, or the data provided, Commissioner Bubba Burkhalter started talking about equipment placement in the county.
County Engineer Dennis Odom, who has 29 years of experience with GDOT and 4 years with Tattnall County, asked Commissioners again about the savings and Burkhalter simply said, “Well, I don’t know where you’re saving.” NEWSFLASH: It’s in the budget and the paperwork provided.
3. Taxpayers foot the bill for private road paving and maintenance.
Odom also asked Commissioners if whether or not a road is public or private would be checked before work is done if the road department is divided up again. Burkhalter simply said, “I hope by now they would know.”
Odom told Commissioners that work had been done on county roads multiple times over the last few months alone. He mentioned a private road that was plowed and driveway put in, both on county property, by county roads crews at the direction of Commissioner Eddie Kennedy. Burkhalter said he knew which road to which Odom was referring. Odom asked if the divided up districts would abide by county policy, which does not allow for the use of equipment or crews on private property, or would “do what they want with it.” Commissioner Eddie Kennedy responded, “I guess we’ll do what we want with it.”
So, not only did Commissioners admit they allow county employees to work on private property at a cost to taxpayers, Commissioner Eddie Kennedy acknowledged he will continue to do it. Of course, there are very few documents related to any private property work because Hicks and Odom both instruct employees not to work on private property but Commissioners pull crew members off jobs to take them to complete jobs for residents.
In some areas of the state, that practice will bring about an investigation by the GBI or even the FBI. It could disqualify the county from eligibility from certain grants and loans as well.
4. Disregard for the standard set by the rest of the state.
Odom read a report from Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) which detailed a survey sent out by the organization polling 17 counties on whether or not the Commissioners have input in the day-to-day operations of their respective road departments. Not a single one said commissioners interact with the road department outside of setting the budget or relaying work orders in a poll which included Ben Hill County, Bulloch, Brooks, Colquitt, Crawford, Jefferson, Laurens, Liberty, Randolph, Stephens, Candler, White, and several others.
Burkhalter said, “Well, that’s my opinion.”
After twenty minutes of conversation, Chairman Trim, in his efforts to wrap up as quickly as possible, told the room, “I think we’ve done here is we discussed it, heard from Commissioners, if you got anything to say, you better say it now cause I’m fixin’ to adjourn now.” After Odom said the shift would make the road department the only department in the county with commissioner involvement, Trim said:
“Now you have to remember, and I’m ready to get away from talking to you, but you gotta remember, I wasn’t here, hadn’t been here but for a year, but they did it that way for, I don’t know how long. I’ll have to go back and look and see how it work. You may have been here. He knows how it went on…We’ll have to study and I would advise commissioners to study between now and February. Look at the budget…And come February meeting, I assume it’ll be on the agenda, and I assume somebody will motion it.”
Just before adjournment, Commissioner G.W. Thompson said he wanted to remind everyone that the county is under court order to not use county equipment and crews on private property.
But apparently that court order is about as useful as the county attorney’s law degree.
You can watch the entire workshop yourself: