(Note: The following is the second of two columns from Bulloch County resident Ruth Green outlining her concerns with some county government issues. The first column ran in Wednesday's Statesboro Herald.)
Do you know how your Bulloch County government is spending your money?
In scanning posted minutes of Bulloch County Commission meetings from 2012 until current, there were Items voted on requiring millions be paid with taxpayer money to purchase land, move electrical towers, electrical trunk lines — in the Gateway Industrial Park, which owned and operated by the Bulloch County Development Authority.
At the Feb. 8, 2014 meeting, the county manager asked for approval to pay a company $210,000 for wetlands credits. This is payment to a company that will allow Bulloch County to fill in approximately 9 acres of wetlands (Natures Purifiers) and preserve 9 acres of wetland in one of the nine counties which are in the same watershed as Bulloch County. We fill in our wetlands and another county keeps the same amount of wetlands as wetlands. Nine acres is not a small mud hole; it is a lot of nature disturbed. How will affect that our water table and shallow wells?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the wetland filling permit stating if the information sent to them on the application for the permit was true and there were no objections. The Corps notifies those who have filed a request form and sent it to the Corps to be notified of changes in wetlands and the adjoining property owners to the site. Bulloch County said they had no legal obligation to notify the public of wetland change requests. How could anybody object—nobody knew it was happening!
With rumors for months that a chemical plant was coming to the Gateway, I asked each commissioner, then went before them at two different commission meetings and asked specifically if that corporation might be coming here. I received stone, cold silence. I first asked in December, 2013, just this week I finally learned, no, that company was not coming. How simple it would have been to get this simple answer of no nearly two years ago.
Bulloch County has not yet experienced water shortages, smog as breathing air, little to no space for nature. We have torn away the beauty of yesterday’s downtown left with standing gaudy, empty buildings. We have let contractors scalp lands and build soon to be ghetto housing. Contractors brought in with glee by the Chamber and Bulloch County Development Authority who wish to remain secret — these are businesses that will continue to operate secretly.
True, we cannot keep Bulloch County from changing. We can ensure Bulloch County changes for the very best rather than from outsiders, who bring in their own labor and materials, promise glowing outcomes we never see.
The people vote for government officials they think will see sterling government is provided for the very best for our lands, environment and people. The people count on the officials knowing contracts are for us, rather than the interlopers and carpetbaggers who have little to no ties or care for this county. Our elected officials must see that contracts contain checks and balances and that the benefits of contracts are constantly earned.
When I asked an elected official why a contract did not specify information and why too much was taken for granted, I was told, we had to show Chatham, Effingham and Bryan Counties that Bulloch County could get a major company.
If one sells ones soul one can obtain about anything for the short term. The long term is what we live with and our children and grandchildren will not then be able to change.
E. Ruth Green, PhD is a former professor at Georgia Southern University and a longtime resident of Bulloch County.