From: Taxpayer Advocate
Having read the Herald Journal article about the possible Georgia State Patrol Post move to Greensboro from Madison, I can’t delay engaging this issue with my elected Board of Commissioners. I sincerely hope that you will not make any conclusions without substantial diligence and fact-finding. I strongly support the professionalism of the State Patrol, so my input is from a conservative perspective versus an issue with the GSP.
First, with a facility cost ranging from $1.2-$1.6million for construction all at the expense of the Greene County taxpayer, such a huge expense should be well thought out with numerous public input meetings held throughout the county. The following non-exclusive list of questions should be addressed:
1. In what verifiable, conclusive, and quantifiable way(s) does the moving of the GSP Post benefit the taxpayers of Greene County to justify the cost that would have to be borne?
2. If the construction cost totals $1.2-$1.6million, will the Greene County taxpayers have to pay additional amounts for IT infrastructure, copiers, computers, furniture, phone system, generator, and other needs to make the facility usable?
3. If the Post is not staffed, how does the location of the Post meaningfully and measurably impact the service and location of the troopers such that the citizens of Greene County benefit more with the Post here than they do now? What verifiable basis exists now that can be shared and proven to establish that Morgan County residents receive a higher level of service from GSP than other counties in the service area due to the non-staffed Post being located there? Will GSP confirm, explain, and provide facts to support the theory that Greene County residents will see a higher level of service from them with a Post here than we would without the Post here? Will GSP go on record to confirm that Morgan County receives a higher level of service, or a higher traffic enforcement effort by their troopers, due to the Post being located there as compared to other counties in their service area?
4. Since the GSP already works all of the traffic accident investigations in Greene County, how is our position, or that of our resources improved in any way?
5. We heard for months that the litter on State Highways was the State’s responsibility…why is the facility to house GSP not also the State’s responsibility?
6. If having the Post in your county is such a benefit, and all Morgan County has to do is some renovations to an existing facility at far less in cost than we would face, why is Morgan so willing to let it go?
7. Since there are only “2-3″ troopers on the road at any given time covering 20 counties, how does having a Post in Greene County guarantee us any greater availability of coverage given that these troopers will be required to provide coverage to the whole 20-county area regardless of the location of the Post?
8. GSP has twice before threatened to leave Morgan County as leverage to get something additional from the county, will the same practice be used to hold Greene County “over the barrel”?
9. If Greene County made such a substantial investment, what absolute guarantee would we have that the Post would remain here such that the return on such investment would be fully realized? Will the State provide a written guarantee that the Post will continue to operate as they historically have operated for the next 20 years or so? What prevents the State from consolidating into larger regions as technology affords (the troopers office is their car)?
10. With the notion that the investment is worth it due to increased fine revenue, yet the GSP states that they are not a revenue-generating agency that issues mostly warnings, how can we spend tax dollars relying on such a “pie-in-the-sky” premise?
11. I had heard that a proposed law would divert all of the fine revenue from GSP citations to the State, so if that does happen, we would actually lose revenue…how can we take such a risk?
12. Since the city governments get revenue from traffic citations, will the 5 city governments in Greene County provide funding for this project if it is pursued?
13. The Herald Journal says that a decision will be made in 60 days, will the total cost of the project be made public through public forums before such a decision? Why would we rush to make such a decision as it seems something like this would take years to manifest?
14. Why would this project not be voted upon by the citizens?
15. This project seems a better fit for SPLOST, which would also allow for an element of public vote, so why not include it on the next SPLOST ballot?
16. If coverage at accidents is of concern, why can’t the deputies I see on I-20 all the time be used on the accident scenes to supplement the regular deputies on the road? Don’t we also have other law enforcement personnel that could be utilized in these limited instances such as investigators, administrative officers, other? How will the location of the GSP Post improve this anyway since the Post is not staffed and deputies will still have to respond, do traffic control, and wait on a trooper? Will the arrival of a trooper allow the deputies to leave the accident scene? If not, then how does this constitute any benefit in this regard?
17. Since this is a State function and responsibility, yet fire protection is a local function and responsibility, shouldn’t priority be given to investing in a higher level of fire protection first? Local radio reported that two people died in a house fire last night in Greene County including a young child, are we not overdue in providing better support and resources to the volunteers that work hard to provide an equally important public safety service? Couldn’t paid firefighters help with the traffic at wrecks to free-up deputies and also provide more concentrated local benefit over what a state agency can provide (guarantee)?
18. The whole notion of increased traffic fines to pay for the costs of the Post is questionable in the first place, but wouldn’t the bulk of this money come from Greene County citizens? Wouldn’t this same potential revenue be realizable through enforcement by Greene County law enforcement? At a certain point, better enforcement will amount to compliance and lower revenue, so wouldn’t the law of diminishing returns come into play if relying upon revenue from traffic fines to justify this facility cost?
19. Since the Post is not staffed, why is such a large facility (6500 sq ft) needed?
20. If this is deemed to be so beneficial, why not utilize the building between the Health Department and the Mental Health Department that is under utilized now? I am not sure what is in that building but was told it is owned by the County BOC and rented to some group…can’t that group be removed or relocated? Which is more beneficial, that group or GSP? What about the under-utilized Athens Tech building?
21. Last, but most important, where will such a substantial capital outlay come from? Will the county have to borrow the money? Carrying cost will cause a tax increase for sure, does this project fit into the overall short and long-term priorities that are appropriately weighted in terms of cost versus benefit analysis? Will this evaluation, list of priorities, and sources of funding be shared publicly so that sharing of perspective can be made through public meetings throughout the county?
I apologize for the length, but hope this helps in your evaluation of this potential venture. Perhaps the facts will support such a venture, but the facts should be carefully obtained before emotional basis is used to leap down a path. As I may choose to run for office next year, I prefer to remain anonymous for now…needless to say, I am very concerned about the certain, and likely significant tax increase that will result if this project is pursued as it does not appear to be appropriately defensible and beneficial to the taxpayers expected to foot the bill.
A Taxpayer Advocate