Something noteworthy happened at last week’s County Commission meeting. Yet, it didn’t even rate a mention in the Bryan County News. While we don’t normally respond to news articles, we felt the readers should know about action taken by the Bryan County Board of Commissioners that will affect hundreds of families in south Bryan County. It will affect the families of over 800 children who are signed up for spring baseball, and the families of the nearly 1,000 children who play soccer, and the families of the nearly 350 children who played football this fall, not to mention all those who will play in many sports seasons to come. It will also have a long awaited and positive affect on all of the citizens who seek county services in Richmond Hill and south Bryan County.
What was this noteworthy event - of which no note was made in our local newspaper? The Board of Comissioners approved a $6.5 million loan through the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia to immediately begin construction of the new recreation park in south Bryan County, as well as to begin construction of the new county administrative complex. The loan has a very low 3.75% interest rate, and will be repaid with funds collected through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) which was overwhelmingly approved by Bryan County voters in September of 2005. By borrowing this money and repaying it with SPLOST, the county is able to start these projects now.
We on the Board long ago heard our citizens’ requests for additional recreational facilities and have worked hard with the Recreation Association to secure the funding for this park. Anyone with a child or grandchild playing recreational sports understands, as we do, the urgency of constructing more playing fields as quickly as possible.
In coordination with the Recreation Association, the Board of Commissioners approved the plans for the new recreation park that will include baseball and softball fields, soccer fields and football fields. Bryan Land & Timber donated nearly $1,000,000 of site preparation, meaning the county could go to work on construction of ball fields. The action last Tuesday by the Board of Commissioners clears the way for the long awaited recreation park to be completed in the shortest possible time.
The administrative complex will house the office of the Tax Commissioner, Probate Court, Clerk of Court and Planning & Zoning, in addition to many other services provided by the County, all under one roof, thereby taking these often used services out of the current courthouse annex and rented space within another facility.
The Board of Commissioners also approved a master water and sewer agreement, and voted to secure the funding for the sewer system in the Genesis Point area, as well as approved a major subdivision in the Blitchton area.
The Bryan County News overlooked these events in favor of their front page headline story "Tensions Run High at County Commission Meeting." This article, with numerous quotations from two south Bryan residents, reported on remarks made during the "public comment" session of the meeting. It is no secret that these individuals dislike some of the decisions of the County Commission, and in particular, dislike their 4th District Commissioner. It’s also no secret that they have been vocal opponents of the recreation park and administration building. While it’s certainly their right to address the commission, it’s hard to understand why this portion of the meeting constitutes "front page news". And it’s even harder to understand why the funding for the Recreation Park and administrative complex weren’t even mentioned.
Bryan County News is capable of reporting the news in a responsible manner without front page sensationalism. Criticism is part of the job when you’re a county commissioner, and we’ve all had our share from time to time. While criticism can be news worthy, we would hope that positive news worthy events like the ones above, which affect so many of our citizens, will receive responsible coverage and warrant a place in the paper.
If the Bryan County News chooses to highlight these individuals’ seemingly ongoing feud with the Commission, that is certainly their prerogative. However, if the public is to depend upon the Bryan County News for coverage of local government, then, it shouldn’t be too much to expect the "news" to, indeed, be the news.
Ed Bacon, 1st District Commissioner
Blondean Newman, 2nd District Commissioner
Glen Willard, 3rd District Commissioner
Toby Roberts, 4th District Commissioner
Rick Gardner, 5th District Commissioner
Editor's note: This letter was faxed and emailed to us by Fourth District Commissioner Toby Robertts. Please see our editorial on page 4A.