September 25, 2015
Keeping current reservoir at low levels to fool people into thinking Bear Creek Reservoir is essential.
Tommy Craig, Newton County attorney and water consultant, has led people on for 18 years about the coming reservoir. He has spent $22M of taxpayer’s money so far on this money pit, with a goodly amount going into his personal coffers via invoices for legal and consulting services.
In 2003 TWG started working against Jasper County paying Newton County 25% of all costs incurred to be a “partner” in Bear Creek Reservoir. We particularly protested the bloated and outrageous population figures used to “sell” this reservoir to Newton County citizens, the JCWSA, the Jasper County BOC, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Many more people in Newton County are now seeing the light as well, and want Craig and the reservoir stopped. If Jasper County had participated in this venture, the taxpayers of Jasper County would have already paid in $5.5M for nothing but promises.
Here is a link to the news article “Corps of Engineers at Standstill on Reservoir Permit.” http://www.covnews.com/section/1/article/60531/ It seems the letter from the Corps was hidden by Tommy Craig and Chairman Ellis according to the article.
Phil Johnson, who has announced his candidacy for Newton County Commission Chair, challenging current chair Keith Ellis, has some information about BCR on his website. He states, “Comments from Craig and Chairman Ellis in the Covington News are troubling. The Corps of Engineers, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority have all raised serious questions as to the need for Bear Creek Reservoir, but Craig and Ellis are clearly undeterred.” Read more here: http://philajohnson.com/bear-creek-reservoir/
A letter shared on a Newton County resident’s Facebook page gives much of the recent background, including the USACE withdrawing the BCR permit due to population projections 50% higher than the Governor’s office projections.
I’m deeply concerned by news reports regarding Bear Creek Reservoir and the lack of action by the Board of Commissioners to publicly address these developments. Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims called for a public meeting to discuss the situation, but Chairman Keith Ellis has taken no action as of this writing. Commissioners Levie Maddox, John Douglas, and J.C. Henderson have remained silent, suggesting willingness to let the costly and self-serving actions of County Attorney Tommy Craig continue.
From news reports and commissioner comments, it’s evident Ellis and Craig withheld from the board and citizens a damaging August 28 letter by the US Army Corps of Engineers, while Ellis allowed Craig to respond on Newton County’s behalf without giving commissioners and the public a say. This is unconscionable and terrible leadership by the Chairman.
I’ve read both the letter from the US Army Corps of Engineers and Craig’s response. The latter only deepens concerns raised by the former:
- The Corps letter is damning acknowledgement of how little Craig has accomplished, while spending an incredible sum of money ($22M at least) in the process.
- The Corps letter and Craig’s response are clear evidence the County Attorney has become an impediment in our relationship with the Corps. His comments about the Newton County Water & Sewerage Authority (NCWSA) are likewise disturbing and unlikely to foster the kind of teamwork we need in this county.
- Nowhere in Craig’s letter, nor in public comments from Ellis, have they properly addressed valid questions raised. None of us has a crystal ball, so I don’t view the answers as clear-cut. I respect Craig could differ with the Corps. But, when the Corps of Engineers, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the NCWSA, multiple engineering firms, and numerous citizen groups raise serious and legitimate questions about the wisdom of proceeding, it is troubling to see Craig resort to attacking questioners, rather than responsibly seeking truthful answers.
- Craig lost all credibility as an objective consultant when he deliberately and knowingly mislead commissioners about the existence and findings of the 2009 safe yield analysis performed by Infratec Consulting. I would have been fired for similar deception on my job. It is unfathomable the same did not happen to Craig last December when this was first revealed. Yet, he was reappointed by this board in January. Commissioners, what were you thinking!?
- I am deeply concerned by Craig’s stated intent to move swiftly forward, increasing our commitment and spending on the project. In his own words, he admits no urgency exists for this project, and yet his letter states: “Newton County’s proposed approach allows engineering to proceed parallel to implementing environmental mitigation.” He is hell-bent on accelerating the commitment. The Board of Commissioners must stop this madness.
I’m not qualified to assess the need or timing for this reservoir, but many who are have raised serious doubts. I am imminently qualified to say Craig’s actions prove serious conflicts of interest and show he is unfit to provide objective counsel on a project of this magnitude. His failure to secure a permit – despite repeated assurances we were “almost there” suggests incompetence. Considering the vast sums of money we have paid, he is clearly not a wise investment – something other counties have already recognized and taken action accordingly.
Commissioners face a tough January vote with significant political consequences regarding Craig’s reappointment as County Attorney. But, this can’t wait. Whether the Chairman will lead or not – and, clearly he won’t – the commissioners must demand a meeting. Someone must make the motion and call the vote. Commissioners, show you are something more than what most have come to think of you. Do the right thing.
Remove Tommy Craig immediately as a consultant on the Bear Creek Reservoir and any other water-related projects. We can’t afford to wait.
In Jasper County our current BOC says they are not interested in Bear Creek Reservoir; however, we never intend to let our guard down since too many things have gone on behind closed doors. We ask all citizens to keep an eye open and a listening ear for anything about Bear Creek Reservoir. If this reservoir is ever built it will have to have water pumped in from the Alcovy River and will affect the flow of that river and Jackson Lake. Those of us in Jasper County must stay diligent. It is our opinion that Tommy Craig’s main interest in Bear Creek Reservoir is not a water supply (which all admit is not needed anytime in the near future), but his main interest is money and how much he can bill the complicit NC BOC year after year.