This was on yesterday’s Douglas Neighbor Opinion page.

Dear editor:

Please allow me to address the lengthy Letter to the Editor of July 9, 2008 in the Douglas Neighbor from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners (BOC) concerning the report of the county jail construction project.

The 1,200+ word diatribe by the BOC, just days before an election, was a feeble attempt to cover up the naked truth with a twisted rendition of reality and facts.

It is news to me that the BOC’s “Master Plan” is to build, among other things, a $120 million new jail is now, as stated in the letter, “dormant.”  County documents show the project is to begin August 31 and is on tract to be built on the $9 million property they just purchased.  All the BOC lacks is money and the support of Douglas County voters.

The BOC ackknowledged that the Flagview property along I-20 is the “prospective site” of the new jail and a new administrative complex as well as “other county facilities, not just a jail.”  If the jail and these other projects will not be built on this site, why did the commissioners spend $9 million of our money to buy it?  Does that make sense to you?

Strangely, in their letter the commissioners denied that a “Master Plan” even exists.  After two years of the BOC and the county attorney babbling about a master plan, how can they now deny it when they have shown us charts, maps and renderings of their master plan?

It was misleading for the BOC to claim in their letter that the grossly inflated purchase price of the property included buying a business.  There is no evidence whatsoever of this in public documents.  Just as the previous owner paid one price for everything, the BOC’s own appraisal of $5.7 million was the total appraised value.

The county’s real estate agents were paid five percent ($425,000) of the negotiated sale price.  Because of this percentage aggreement, the agents had no incentive to fight for a lower price.  In fact, their incentive was to inflate the price as much as possible.  This kind of inept management is contrary to the best interest of the taxpayers.

The BOC admitted that the information reported in the Douglas Neighbor on July 2 was from government documents and the commissioners’ own words.  So what was their problem?  Their real concern was not the accuracy of the reporting, but what the documents revealed.  Namely, that the BOC paid twice the assessed value for a piece of property and their relentless pursuit of a prison for profit has been exposed.

It is understandable why the commissioners are upset.  County residents have twice refused to give them a blank check worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The voters of Douglas County rejected the 2006 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) to build a new jail at the current jail location.  Voters then rejected the 2007 SPLOST to build a jail at a new location.

Just like the emperor in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, the Douglas County Commissioners have been exposed.

The naked truth is clear; voters do not want a new jail.

James Bell
Director, Douglas County Taxpayers Coalition