Speak up when it comes to your tax dollars

Monday, February 6, 2017

Finding answers to controversial questions -- especially those that end in settlements and/or litigation -- is often easier said than done. Recently, weve done our best to answer some of those questions.

Weve had conversations with county officials, current and former Bloomfield School District officials, and representatives of the company in question, Garmong Construction Services, concerning the upcoming Greene County Jail expansion and the Bloomfield Outdoor Physical Education Facility.

Since the jail expansion was first announced, with a goal of battling the ongoing overcrowding issues, weve been asking questions about why it is important. Specifically, how it is going to help and why this route? Each conversation results in the same goal: To ultimately save the county money. The commissioners and Sheriff Mike Hasler have indicated this jail expansion is inevitable because complaints made to the ACLU have to either be addressed or a lawsuit will push the county to do what it is already in the process of starting.

This way, the county can make the changes on its own terms and the way they see best fits the countys needs.

But, despite all the information presented about the project, readers have had a common issue with the construction manager hired for the project, Garmong, because of the issues with the Bloomfield Outdoor Physical Education Facility.

After visiting the site and talking to several people, its obvious there are some serious issues. But Garmong is working to address those concerns through a settlement, which includes fixing the cracks in the tennis courts.

Commissioner Ed Michael said the county has had positive dealings with the company in the past, specifically citing a $2 million savings during the Greene County General Hospital renovation. Thats a pretty big chunk of change.

And we keep coming back to the same question: Does issues with one project discredit a company as a whole?

Wed like to think not, because then we would all be out of business.

Since the concerns started rolling into our newsroom, weve done some investigating. Weve still got more work to do, but we need to note that not once did someone show up to a public meeting and express their concerns.

An individual called our office recently to talk about the issues. One of our staff suggested this individual attend a county meeting to let his voice be heard.

His response was, Im not going to do your job for you.

We can look into issues and concerns, use our words to bring them to the reader, but it is important to remember elected officials work for you, the voter.

Our staff covers meetings weekly and we have seen community members come before city, town and county leaders in order to make a needed change. Sometimes the impact seems small and other times they inspire leaders to make total overhauls of the original plan because they realize it is not what their constituents want or need.

It has also been said that policymakers do not want members of the community to show up and speak their piece. While there are always exceptions, for the most part our local leaders seem to appreciate seeing faces in the crowd, so they are talking to the ones whose lives they are affecting.

And, sometimes, we need the community as a backup. When things are going sideways, some community leaders are careful what they say in front of us. But, we live in small towns and people talk. Our readers sometimes have information we cant attain ourselves.

Just remember, when expressing a concern, you have to remember to talk to someone -- not at them. People are much more likely to listen when you speak to them like a human being and not a verbal punching bag.